April 14, 2002
"Mediocre And Third-Rate"

The one who calls himself "Eric A. Blair" seems to think that his enemies are not only wrong on the issues but bad writers as well. Someone who aspires to be the new Orwell should probably try to write better than this (I have numbered the sentences for easy reference):

1 Looking over the bloggers Views at Fox News I see the usual suspects: Ken Layne, Will Vehrs, Rand Simberg, Tim Blair and others. 2 The first thing I'm struck by is how mediocre and third-rate the writing is. 3 That's too be expected, I suppose. 4 When a new technology is introduced, those who are associated with it often get a free ride of the coattails of the new technology's adoration. 5 As the technology integrates itself into society and loses its novel luster, a more critical examination of those who have attached itself to it naturally follows. 6 Eventually blogging will become as ubiquitious as e-mail, and when that day comes Fox Bloggers, I just hope for the sake of your children's private schooling savings fund that you didn't quit you day job.

7 I have more thoughts on how understanding the Fox News warbloggers gives you the key to understand the strange behavior of the blogging foot soldiers, the sadness that Arafat's statement brought to my bloodthirsy blogbuddies, and the curious denial of the reports of mass graves and murders commited by the IDF, but it's a beautiful Saturday, I'm alive and in too good of a mood to waste this night slogging through the RISK board game rantings of nihilistic impotent jerks.
8- until tomorrow, Eric A. Blair

My comments on each sentence:

  1. The syntax is not entirely clear, but "bloggers" looks as if it's meant to be possessive, and should therefore have an apostrophe. Perhaps I should add for the author's sake that the apostrophe will go after the S, not before. Commas after "News" and "Blair" would help. "The usual suspects" is a flabby cliché.
  2. What was the second thing the author was struck by? How does the passive voice help the meaning? And how does calling someone "mediocre and third-rate" say or imply more than just calling him either "mediocre" or "third-rate"?
  3. The author either doesn't know the difference between "too" and "to", or is too lazy to check over his work before posting it. These paragraphs have been on the web, uncorrected, for more than 24 hours now.
  4. This sentence is too long and too much in the passive voice. The phrase "free ride of the coattails" is unidiomatic and ambiguous: try "free ride on". Otherwise it's not at all clear whether the coattails are riding or being ridden. The whole metaphor is vague and pretentious. Is technology adoring or being adored? In what sense does it have coattails?
  5. Delete "novel", which adds nothing to "luster". Change "itself" to "themselves": the antecedent is plural. Does technology integrate itself into society, like some living creature? How does the integration metaphor fit with the luster metaphor? "Very awkwardly" is not an adequate answer.
  6. More misspellings: try "ubiquitous" for "ubiquitious" and "your day job" for "you day job". The latter should probably be plural, as should "fund". The evil bloggers do not all share one job and one fund. Comma placement is often a matter of judgment, but here a comma before "Fox Bloggers" is required to set off the direct address. The whole "for the sake of" phrase straggles inelegantly. The sequence of tenses would be better with "haven't" for "didn't". So far I have avoided judging the substance of Blair's argument, but will make an exception here. It seems likely that e-mail users will continue to vastly outnumber bloggers, even as both groups increase. Surely millions of computer owners will prefer to keep their thoughts for private e-mails and not blog them for the whole world to see. Many will be wise to do so.
  7. This sentence should have been split up into two or three. There is an awkward shift in addressee: "you" referred to hateful warbloggers in the previous sentence, but here with no warning refers to the reader. More misspelling and bad grammar: try "committed" for "commited" and "too good a mood" for "too good of a mood". "Blogbuddies" is an ugly coinage, and the false chumminess fails either as sincere admonition or ironic insult.
  8. Not much wrong with this, though the punctuation is odd.

No doubt a professional writer or teacher of writing could find even more errors in Pseudo-Blair's work -- and perhaps a few in mine. This is just first aid, designed to bring semiliteracy up to bare competence. In doing so, I hope I have at least demonstrated that "mediocre and third-rate" is a compliment coming from this author, since his own style is abysmal and fifth-rate, or tenth-rate, or whatever is the lowest rate.

To attack the problem from a different angle, here are Proto-Orwell's Six Rules:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Is there any of these that our Deutero-Orwell has not violated?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at April 14, 2002 10:57 PM