Posted on 21 Jan 2010 21:28
I am starting this series of blog posts as a tongue in cheek1 way of helping you spot bullshit in fitness articles. You may know that I don't like the term fitness so I am using it purely out of convenience. I think it is important to mention that just because you notice some of the things I talk about in a fitness article, this does not mean the article in question is BS; only that you should be on BS alert as you consider it.
There are so many bad practices used in writing, and technical writing is especially prone. I call noticing a bad practice a "spot." Just because see one or two spots an article doesn't mean it's BS. I have a personal of system of giving an article imaginary points, starting at 100, and then taking away points, depending on the severity of the spot, as I go. This may be a bit convoluted for most, so you'll probably have you're own way of dealing with spots.
Obviously most of what I write in these posts will apply to all articles not just fitness. But along the way I'm sure there will be spots that are unique to fitness. You will find, I think, that fitness articles seem to contain more than their fair share of these spots.
Article Starts with a Quote
Articles that have something to say should be clear in purpose and not attempt to pre-influence you to a certain stand or opinion. When an article starts with a quotation, usually, the author is attempting to implant an idea into your head BEFORE they begin the article. Even if you don't agree with the quotation it influences your reaction to the information to follow. Starting an article with a quote would be a no-no for good writing in general.
Even worse is when an article starts with a quote from the author himself. I don't have to tell you it's gauche. Quoting oneself in general is to be avoided unless absolutely necessary for purposes of information. But to begin an article with a self quote is a double whammy on the gauche scale. Not only is the author trying to pre-influence you but he is trying to impress himself upon you rather than to impress an idea upon you. I see this practice more and more and it strikes me as the height of hubris.
Remember that a quote is an exact copy of something that is said and is set off with quotation marks or some other way. Most are then followed by the source of the quote. Paraphrasing is completely different and on internet blogs it can be absolutely necessary. I think of it as "backstory". If something you are writing about follows from something you previously wrote about then it is a courtesy to the reader to let them know. To make them privy to your train of thought. This to me is good writing in that it is focused on and about the reader's needs.2
I the difference between paraphrasing previous work and a direct self quote is clear. When a writer employs self quotes often it becomes clear that their purpose is to promote themselves rather than ideas.
Article uses excessive quotations or paraphrasing.
Similar to point one. Depending on the length of an article, relying heavily on quotations is a writing faux pau and is usually a signal that the author is on shakey ground. One or two quotations in a work of moderate length can illuminate and reinforce a good article. Too many and they become a crutch that distract the reader from sometimes faulty reasoning. Usually when quotes are used in this fashion, it's right after a particularly strong and absolute statement that the author is unable to adequately back up. The idea is strong statement —> authority figure.
Pay particular attention to where quotes are placed. Are they after an idea has been adequately defended? Or do they take the place of that defense? In the former case, a good quote is like the icing on a cake or maybe a cigar after a meal. Can I say that on the webernet?
Other posts in this series:
This page created 21 Jan 2010 21:28
Last updated 22 Oct 2015 20:51