Just Say No

Many years ago, the smartest woman in the world gave me some great advice, hoping to mentor me into improving a newsletter I used to edit. She told me that being an editor is really hard, because you have to say no to people a lot. You have to be very demanding about what you choose to publish, always asking yourself if the story is interesting enough for your readers. You even have to say no to your boss sometimes, when he or she suggests a story that makes sense for internal reasons, but which you know will turn out to be a dud. It sounds obvious, but I think her point is often missed by people editing newsletters, and especially people publishing blogs.

I read a lot of blogs. I collect them compulsively as I surf the Internets. And as I peruse the blogosphere, I think about Virginia's advice a lot. As much as I believe that blogging is a revolution in our culture, I also see that there's a lot of really boring stuff out there, and as a reader, I wish bloggers would show a bit more self-restraint. For what it's worth, here are some of the pet peeves of a blog fanatic:

  • Don't describe your blog as "the random thoughts of..." or "a day in the life of..." Zzzzzzzzzz
  • Don't telegraph your humor. (Joke!) If you have to tell someone you're joking, it's not funny.
  • For god's sake, learn to spell.
  • If it's been on Boing Boing, or Instapundit, or the like, don't bother posting about it unless you've really got something to add.
  • (And just an aside, don't ever, ever, have music start playing automatically on your Web site. It makes me want to stab you.)
And finally, for the love of sweet boneless jebus, write shorter posts. (This one's really pushing it, I know.) Many of us read hundreds of blogs. If you can't get to the point in less than three paragraphs, maybe you shouldn't post.

Would the commenters like to add anything to the list?


j.e. said...

That’s great advice, but you know, I did everything you say but my blog still flopped! I guess the other element is “have something interesting to say”!

BTW, whatever happened with that movie set in your backyard? Weren’t they going to film some kind of 9-11 dealy there? And weren’t you signed to play a brilliant (and hot) CIA analyst who nearly foiled the scheme? I heard you and Rachel McAdams were vying for that role ;-)

Jennifer said...

Oh j.e., you're such a morale booster. Are you John Entwistle by any chance? Maybe he faked his death.

Oliver Stone finished his filming earlier this year and they dismantled the replica WTC wreckage. Maybe when the movie finally comes out you'll catch a glimpse of me mooning the set. (But I can't promise anything.)

j.e. said...

Who is this Entwhistle of whom you speak? Ah, The Writ of Common Wisdom (Wikipedia) reveals him to be some sort of British rock & roll man. One can’t have too many of them around. He must never have visited That Vast Wasteland Between New York And LA. But if you like him, so do I.

Actually, I bet that's the Nick Cage movie isn't it? What a neat thing to have seen the set.

The Wine Commonsewer said...

And just an aside, don't ever, ever, have music start playing automatically on your Web site. It makes me want to stab you.

funniest thing I've read all day. I'll hold them down while you stab them.

The Wine Commonsewer said...

Oh yeah, not sure that Virginia Postrel is the absolute smartest person in the world but she is definitely on my very, very short list of candidates.

At one of our world famous 4th of July parties I commented in conversation that Virginia is a really, really a great person. Whereupon this cheesy little female troll (that I can barely stand anyway but had to invite because her husband is way cool) says (in a drunken slovenly surly snotty voice) Oh, are you in love with her like all the other guys?

Really wanted to spit. Bad.

Hey, was this too long?

Jennifer said...

TWC, perfect length post! Fortunately, he's an ex-husband now, right?

The Wine Commonsewer said...

He is, in fact, on the slow track to becoming an ex-husband. They have progressed to seperate bedrooms. His is in another state. The divorce is coming and expected but the pace is slow.

j.e. said...

I'm afraid I can't root for divorce. Can't we just hope she improves? Or maybe she has some other outstanding quality that kind of balances the drunken snotty thing?

The Wine Commonsewer said...

JE, if you knew her, you'd root for divorce. I could tell you stories that would curl your hair (assuming it's straight to begin with).

bill said...

I'd truly like to do something 'for sweet boneless jebus', or whatever it was, but I'm afraid I don't know what I'd be committing to. But I do agree with your comments (okay, not Boing Boing; I don't read that too often, so how can I know what they've scooped up lately?), but the music-start one, absolutely. More than once I've been in bed doing some surfing, and had to lunge for the mute lest I wake up my wife. And haven't always been fast enough, either.

BTW, I like what I'll call the 'astonished cat' on your web site's home page.

Lori said...

I think those tips are great! (Esp. the music!) To those, I would like to add:

- Enough with "lol" (although I guess this goes to your point - if you have to tell me that you are laughing out loud, it probably wasn't funny). This also goes for "heh heh heh" or other laugh variations. Unless your blog is on MySpace or you are being obviously ironic, these aren't appropriate.
- I know we're all not grammar nuts like me, but capitalization and punctuation go a long way in making a bad story, if not better, at least more palatable

Obiously we get attached to the personalities behind the blogs, not the actual writing, grammar, spelling, or aesthetics of the blog itself. But if someone can't distinguish "their" from "they're" or sound better than an entry in my eighth grade diary, then maybe blogging isn't the right outlet.

Wow! Aren't I a bitter Betsy tonight!?!

Finally, my last words of advice from some editor, somewhere: "When in doubt, cut it out."

Janet said...

I would like to cheer pretty well everything you've said, thereby breaking the rule about not posting if you don't have anything new to say, which I heartily endorse when I'm not breaking it.