February 23, 2002
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Effectively bad writing

In A List Apart, Dennis Mahoney tells us how to write a good web log. His focus is Good Writing -- clean, concise, and witty.

It's a good piece, for what it does. As Winer was quick to point out, Mahoney casts good and bad writing as a distinction between amateurs and professionals. This is unfortunate because it's false. Almost all our best novelists are, strictly speaking, amateurs or semi-pros -- most of their income comes from teaching, speaking, something other than writing. You can write well and leave it in the drawer.

To suggest that the best way to improve your web log is to write more correctly is probably to lead people astray. Bad writing can be effective in weblogs. What really sold Kaycee Nicole, in the end, is that she wanted so desperately to write, and her writing was so consistently, convincingly terrible. Mary Wehmeier's weblog on Olympic skating is full of blunders -- naive spelling, bad grammar, flat-footed sentences. But this is exactly right for the purpose. She's got the voice of a former athlete who's having a good time, a good drink, and is enjoying The Game with some people who have been there, too. "You never heard such crowds, Joe!", said Marylin. "Yes, I have." Dimaggio answers.