Lazy blogging. Bad writing.

Sara Mayhew must have wanted more attention, because as tonyinbatavia pointed out in a comment, she posted another random tweet about Stephanie and me, apropos of nothing.

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Learn to summarize someone else’s point instead of quoting huge blocks of text. Lazy blogging. Bad writing. Examples: @OpheliaBenson @szvan

She’s weirdly persistent about picking fights with me. I don’t know why, apart from wanting more attention (but then there are billions of people in the world, and I don’t know why she wants attention from me in particular). I don’t know her. I haven’t written about her here (except about these bizarre random fight-pickings). I haven’t interacted with her. But pick pick pick.

She did a more extended version (less lazy! less bad!) on Facebook, too. It’s a public post. (We’re not Friends, needless to say.)

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The post:

Bad blogging is when you need to quote huge blocks of text. It makes me believe you’re either a lazy or incompetent writer, when you can’t make a summary of someone else’s point.

Her comments, following one by Dan Fincke:

Dan Fincke it takes a lot of work to write a good paragraph. I don’t blame bloggers for not spending their time rewriting others’ ideas when they can simply quote them for their readers and save their hard writing energies for their own original stuff. A blog is a journal, a place you sometimes just record other people’s words that are interesting sometimes.
Sara E Mayhew It starts to become really lazy, like Almost Diamonds and Ophelia Benson’s blog, when it’s 90% blocks of quotes and they insert a sentence or two in between.
12 hours ago · Like · 1Sara E Mayhew At that point, just link to the entire article you’re discussing. But I guess Zvan and Benson aren’t really generating content as much as just being the two old muppets in the balcony.
So I’m a lazy bad writer, so let’s see what content Sara generates. Her latest post is…

…four photos, of four dresses. And some writing.

Strapless dresses from SammyDress! This wholesale Hong Kong fashion site has incredibly cheap clothing prices, but my experience has been that what you save on items is made up for with very expensive shipping. Quality is typical of Chinese produced fashion—cute on the outside but low quality is seen on the inside of the dresses with imperfect stitching. Petite sizes. I haven’t yet bought a dress from them I didn’t like.

That’s good hardworking writing.

Having conceded that point, I’ll say a few words – of my very own writing, that I wrote myself! – about Mayhew’s claim that quoting is lazy and bad compared to summarizing.

The first word I’ll say about that is “horseshit.” That’s horseshit. It’s not true, not as a generalization. Sometimes summarizing is preferable to quoting, but certainly not always. If it were always preferable, why would the Daily Show use so many clips? The Daily Show is quite popular, and also well thought of. It’s both. It’s considered good tv, good commentary, good humor, good news analysis. Part of what’s good is the use of video clips that show people saying things, so that we can all see exactly what they say and how they say it. A summary would not be better than that for the purposes of the show. The same goes for the Rachel Maddow show and plenty of other shows. The same goes for many many blogs that quote extensively. Some websites do nothing but link to others’ material with a headline and a teaser – like Arts and Letters Daily for example. That’s different from writing a book or an article, but that doesn’t make it worthless.

I’m interested in language and rhetoric, in the words people use and the possible reasons why they use them and the likely effects the words will have. When I’m looking at that I don’t want to summarize, I want to give the actual words, so that readers can see exactly what I’m talking about. This is a new genre that blogging makes possible in a way it wasn’t before. I like the genre, and I use it a lot. It would have been useless to “summarize” what Rod Liddle wrote, for instance; it was necessary to give a good sample of it so that people could see his particular brand of smug laddish dismissiveness.

I don’t consider that a whole lot more lazy than posting four photos of dresses.