As a writer who often finds that he has nothing in particular to say, it pains me to accept that content trumps style in this world. This is why the ability to get to the nub of a story, distill it into a one-line pitch and sell it in to either your editor or your reader is the most important skill for a journalist. But I am not a journalist, and I prefer to try writing where the story is important, yes, but the way the piece is written is also relevant and potentially informative. That’s what I’m trying to do with some of my pieces at Mosaic, anyway.
So when people share stories through social media, it’s interesting that many express opinions about the writing that seem to refer to style, yet perhaps relate more to the content and how it fits with their existing viewpoint – that’s my suspicion (or paranoia), so I’ve constructed a little guide to the words people use to describe articles that they share and what I think they might really mean. Feel free to add more definitions in the comments!
- Good = I agree with this article.
- Great = This article agrees with me.
- Nice = There’s nothing I can disagree with in this article.
- Interesting (1) = I haven’t read this article yet, but I suspect I’d agree with it.
- Interesting (2) = I’m not sure what to say about this article: it’s the kind of thing I usually agree with but I can’t quite put my finger on why I’m reluctant to describe it as “good”.
- Important = This article is on a topic in which I have an interest, probably a professional interest, but I wish the writer had done a better job of it.
- Useful = I already knew what is in this article but if you read it, it might help you learn to agree with me.
- Thoughtful = This article responds to something I wrote without calling me an idiot.
- Excellent = This article quotes me.
- Excellent (if the person sharing works in PR) = This article quotes my boss.
- Must-read = Why does no one listen to me when I try to make this point?
- Totally nails = This article is written by a friend of mine who clearly listened when I bored everyone else to death at that party, and has now published my stream of consciousness as a reasoned argument.