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StriderHoang avatar 3:39 AM on 07.10.2012
The Write Stuff of 07/06 - In Soviet Russia, line breaks you



Welcome back to this last week's Write Stuff. Here, I discuss a few examples from the cblog community in order to highlight uses of style, grammar, structure, and other various ideas that make a blog good, beyond the subject matter and discussion. In essence, a place where a writer can talk about things that concern writing.

I just want to let you guys know that I've had experience as an editor as well. I won't claim that my own stuff is perfect but that's the thing about editing your own pieces. You know your own writing to the point where you can't see your own mistakes. Like a mental blindspot, double commas slip by, stupid spelling errors, and wonky sentence structure. But after reading and editing so many stories, I think whenever a story grinds my gears, something must be wrong.

After a bit of fine tuning, I'll be limiting each section to 3 to 5 blogs. It'll be tough whittling a week's worth of quality blogs down to a few examples, but always keep in mind that each selected work may be the first fine example that demonstrates great qualities other blogs already have.

Now let's change gears here and get into a new idea to precede the Write Stuff: the weekly tip.



This week's tip concerns line breaks. The cblog's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. The fact that everything will come out plain without extraneous formatting is nice when you want to focus on the content but you're also typing in what is essentially Windows notepad. It's funny how the lack of external formatting makes presentation easy but is also the reason why formatting can seem lacking in your body.

First time users of the cblogs might simply type out their idea without a second thought, realizing after it goes live that their precious blog has become a wall of text. The dreaded wall of text can immedietely turn people off from finishing or even beginning your blog. Reading texts on a computer screen, especially for long periods of time, can lead to eye strain and general fatigue.

Inserting breaks (in the case of the cblogs, hitting the enter key twice) helps alleviate the tension created. Breaks allow us to rest our eyes, making it easy to resume reading after easing our concentration a bit at that all important white space in between paragraphs.

It can also create create excitement, drama, or emphasis.

See what I did there? I'm emphasizing the extra ways you can use line breaks. As an example, Manchild's blog last week about his Faustian Bargain used an excellent line break. He used it to emphasize the intensity of the Faustian Bargain not once, but twice.

Not so much line breaks but separating paragraphs is also an important skill to note. Not only will we rest our eyes at a line break, but our brain can pick up a new train of thought on the new paragraph. For example, after this next break, I'm going to talk about an contrarian example.

Later on, I'll point out a blog that had absolutely no line breaks. The blog can be physically tiresome to read through and one has to think how much text there has to be make it tiring to just read. And it's not just tiring but the thoughts and ideas begin to run into each other. Where does this thought begin and end? Can I assume this is a new part? How much longer will he talk about this?

Think of line breaks like taking in a breath. You don't just run your mouth in a conversation: you make pauses to see reactions, breathe, and generally pace yourself.



Wrenchfarm's blog of love, dedication, and effort

Wrench doesn't blog as often as other members of the community. Certainly not as often as people who make it a point to return every week. But it seems that he does so infrequently for good reason because he puts a lot of time and effort into every facet of his blogs. He searches for great pictures, edits them for presentation and impact, formats them and inserts relevant links, and keeps the whole thing going at a comfortable pace through thoughtful paragraph structure. It doesn't hurt that he also tends to blog on subject where he brings minute details from research and experience into the mix.

Magnalon's balanced view on the issues

Tone is a difficult thing to balance in writing. Come on too strong and people will think you're pretentious. But without enough oomph, people might as well think you're writing self-depreciating humor. Chris Carter, aka Magnalon, solves this by balancing his argumentative article with both sides of the issue. While he presents the opposite side's initial argument in a fair light, he also brings his own criticism to point out inconsistencies without completely invalidating Sarkeesian's side of the argument. Making sure you don't antagonize yourself to your audience without making yourself look sorry is great in any argumentative article.

Falldog takes us to school with his realistic slant on the Pyro

If there's anything a reader will appreciate, it's fact. Given not everyone is well-versed in psychology, Falldog's convincing presentation on real-world mental disorders is augmented by the fact that he sources his materials. In fact, the level of jargon used within the context of the article make it seem like borderline genius satire as he attaches such a serious level of commentary to a game about mentally unstable mercenaries who aren't sure why they're fighting each other.



Shaxam's lengthy reflection on Metal Slug

As I stated before, line breaks are a great way to bring out that extra oomph in your blog. Shaxam has a great personal story about his experience with Metal Slug. And if there's one thing people love to read, it's human interest stories. But the lack of breaks makes it difficult to penetrate. Where does he talk about the game? When does he juxtapose it with other games? His personal experiences? One glance is all it takes to get your reader interested and if they see something mammoth, they may decide not to invest their time in your story.

Fletchy's blurry commentary on the business

It's understandable when one only wants to get his thoughts from out of his head and onto the copy. We're not all interested in the craft of writing after all. But a certain amount of thought is still needed in presention. While Fletchy's blog on big game budgets is more than passable, his choice in images is boggling. Obviously, he wanted to take that extra step to make it look nice and yet he chose badly scaled images despite his effort. If you want that next-level presentation without devoting too much effort, you can always pick stock pictures that are near Dtoid's default 620 pixel dimensions. But picking pictures too small or with mismatched width-height dimensions means all that effort will backfire.

Troyfullbuster's gif haven

I was guilty of using tons of gifs once while recapping but I tried using tumblr's neverending source of gifs sparingly after that. We're here to read after all, not watch. On the same train of thought of using images that detract rather than enhance your blog, Troy's use of gifs is somewhat distracting. Someone can have a legitimate interest in the topic when suddenly we see Yoshi walking into Link's sword and we can't do anything but focus our gaze onto it along with the myriad of other things that are moving on the page for some reason.



Stealth's list overload

This is less for this particular topic and more for a trend, though it certainly hurts that the article is a list in its most basic form with no explanation. While list articles can be fun when done right, depending solely on lists can lead to a fast burnout. Perhaps I've forgotten that Stealth mentioned that he's doing a celebratory period of list articles but the patience of anything resembling a regular audience can be worn down fast if they learn to expect nothing but lists. Especially when those lists have more in common with a grocery shopping list than most other creative pieces you can find on the cblogs. A lot of good list articles narrow down their choices then expand on those choices to create the main body. But here, the main body is just a bunch of proper nouns we're supposed to relate to.

 
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