How has contributing to Metafilter affected your writing style? May 10, 2009 11:12 AM   Subscribe

How has contributing to Metafilter affected your writing style?
posted by Afroblanco to MetaFilter-Related at 11:12 AM (102 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Christ, what an asshole I would be if I allowed MetaFilter to influence my style of writing.
posted by Dumsnill at 11:21 AM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Contributing to Metafilter has helped me condense my previously verbose writings into a series of nearly-witty one-liners.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 11:23 AM on May 10, 2009


Yes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:23 AM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


.
posted by languagehat at 11:24 AM on May 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


(But, to give a real answer, it hasn't affected my writing style to my knowledge.)
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 11:25 AM on May 10, 2009


If anything, it's helped. Pretty intimidating to stick one's neck out here among the snarky literate.
posted by Space Kitty at 11:32 AM on May 10, 2009


Well, if I'm saying something serious, I usually phrase and format it in such a way that I can claim to have been joking.
posted by Dumsnill at 11:35 AM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


@Afroblanco: It has forced me to say everything in under 140 characters
posted by found missing at 11:37 AM on May 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


About half of the stories in my fake memoir started out as little one-off jokes or comment fables here. I don't know that MetaFilter has so much affected my writing style as it has provided inspiration for content, which is pretty significant.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:44 AM on May 10, 2009


Good sir:

I somewhat believe, and have sufficient reason and evidence to think so, that my frequent contributions to the ongoing internet "discussion" here at MetaFilter, has rendered my own writing styles to be far more casual, direct, and keeping with in the manner of relaxed and friendly conversation. than I had previously been.

Sincerely,

-Whelk, The. Esq.

(deceased)
posted by The Whelk at 11:46 AM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, it hasn't affected my writing style as much as it's affected my internet posting process.

MetaFilter trained me to think before posting, take a breather if I need to, preview, spellcheck better, and so on.

My writing feels more jagged here than in other more casual forums, which I mostly attribute to not wanting to look stupid compared to some of the amazing brains we have around these parts.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:47 AM on May 10, 2009


Well, since all the other forums I belonged to had an "edit" button, I got sloppy with my typing between oh, 1999 & 2004. I've been trying to tighten that up, lately. That, & I'm working on a more subtle form of snark, and am really trying hard the last couple months to not just jump on the MeFi meme bandwagon without knowing what the hell I'm talking about. I've faked it quite a few times.

Also. It's all about the favorites, whether through insightful personal disclosures of the heartfelt variety, useful yet arcane knowledge, piling on with flaming snarkitude, or just lighthearted banter. My first though of course, is "how will this comment most effectively gather me the most favorites?"

TIA.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:49 AM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


*thought*

you can see how well the typing thing is going.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:52 AM on May 10, 2009


Betta woud b how hs ur writin ben efeted by net v mefi.

But seriously, I don't know about affected, but it is interesting to see how some of the better writers construct their thoughts and convey them to others. I'm thinking specifically of Miko, jessamyn and cortex and how generally clear and verbose their writing comes across, even if you don't agree with it. Particularly with the mods when they're writing long explanations, there's almost a social quality to their writings, like they're taking each point, considering it, telling you that understand your point, explaining what they think of and then possible outcomes of both their thoughts and the comments they're responding too. It's almost like apes grooming other apes to calm them down.

Miko's writing is similar but with the gentle mod voice. Not to say that Miko's voice is harsh, but it comes from a person viewpoint than the "herder of cats" voice.

These are just general writings. Other Mefites tell good stories, like robocop is bleeding of course, or any of tkchrist's stories about his dad and growing up are always awesome.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:54 AM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: I've faked it quite a few times.
posted by Dumsnill at 11:56 AM on May 10, 2009


I got memed!
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:00 PM on May 10, 2009


I accidentally my comments on MetaFilter.
posted by RussHy at 12:04 PM on May 10, 2009


But seriously, I don't know about affected, but it is interesting to see how some of the better writers construct their thoughts and convey them to others. I'm thinking specifically of Miko, jessamyn and cortex and how generally clear and verbose their writing comes across, even if you don't agree with it.

I've been waiting for an opportunity to say something about this. Cortex has blown my brain on a couple of occasions. There are times when someone will ask "why" about a joke or a change in the tone of a thread or something like that, and Cortex has done this like....timeline diagram thing of how a thought or idea evolved. He consistently takes his time to painstakingly diagram out how misconceptions came to exist or to try and empirically explain a subjective case by case process like deletion or moderation.

I wish I could find some examples, but I'm sure some of you know what I'm talking about. There was this one in a thread about calendars and nudity or something that was my favorite where he explained the aggregate absorption of the creepiness factor of a concept through humor and stuff....
posted by lazaruslong at 12:07 PM on May 10, 2009


I take back my calender comment because I get called a socially-retarded creep and then everyone wants in on it?

Once the perceived potential transgression and associated offense of an earnest, socially tone-deaf calendar proposal was exorcised by the collective rebuke and retraction, the topic itself was made functionally harmless and folks felt more comfortable moving on to the cheerful post-transgression deconstruction of the event through embrace/mockery.


I kinda want to bone that sentence.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:11 PM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I italicize my quotes.
posted by klangklangston at 12:15 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Shorter, snarkier, less productive.
posted by oaf at 12:32 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


my writing metafilter has not effected, oh yes.
posted by lalochezia at 12:47 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've added a favorites button at the end of my articles and research papers.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:49 PM on May 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


A few have wondered why I put bracketed exclamation point at the end of all my letters, emails and signed credit card receipts.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:11 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd be interested in a new writing subsite. Stories, articles, poetry, & prose contributed by members. Sort of like MeMu but without the music, just the words and the spaces between them.
posted by ageispolis at 1:22 PM on May 10, 2009


I NO LONGER USE ALLCAPS TO EXPRESS ON TEH INTERNETS MY LATENT, ALL-CONSUMING RAGE
posted by KokuRyu at 1:27 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


A bit. Maybe. Whatever.
posted by ob at 1:31 PM on May 10, 2009


Getting favorites is inevitable part of being a metafilter member. They can be, at times, distracting. I offer this guide as way to help achieve as few favorites as possible while still being an active metafilterian.

1. Favorites can't be favorited! That means you can express approval of a comment or a agree with a comment without actually saying anything in the conversation.

2. Do not write poetry or stories in any metatalk thread, or any thread in general.

3. If you must answer questions in ask.metafilter, always be non-committal or offer opinions from more than one perspective. Or if your answer is strongly worded, it should be no more than one sentence.

4. Do not make jokes on any sub-site, at anytime.

5. Pursue conversations in music and projects with abandon, the risk of comment favorites there is minimal.

6. Do not respond to threads with personal anecdotes about your life.

7. In every contentious thread that you comment in, preface your comment with something to the effect of "I'm probably be wrong, but..."

8. Do not tell people you'll do something if 500 people favorite this comment.

9. If you are an admin, use a sockpuppet to make comments.

10. If you have worked at apple, the discovery channel, or if you are famous, do not use your real name in the account details.

11. Use the wiki, because favorites don't exist there and don't be afraid to post to music or project. Post meet-ups for cities with less than 4 million people.

12. Use your twitter and flickr accounts, those can't be favorited and still show up on metafilter.

13. Use your memail with vigor.

14. Let other people make FPP's for you. Send a memail to someone who seems interested in the subject, and ask them for input - and then let them post it. Feign shyness. If they refuse, post at

15. Post ask.me's as anonymous when possible. If rejected, post on Monday's at 5am for least visible and high ask.me question volume.
posted by bigmusic at 1:32 PM on May 10, 2009 [9 favorites]


It has made me aware of my tendency to over-use profanity. Sometimes too much profanity just makes you sound fucking stupid.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:42 PM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've thought about this for longer than I probably should have, but I can't come up with any ways in which Metafilter has changed my writing. Boring comment, but hey, data point.
posted by Kwine at 1:43 PM on May 10, 2009


why, it's shot my writing style to hell - can't you tell?
posted by pyramid termite at 1:49 PM on May 10, 2009


To look more like a writer, I bought a fedora.
posted by milarepa at 1:57 PM on May 10, 2009


It's mostly made me realize what a hard time I have getting even the simplest thoughts down in text.
posted by octothorpe at 1:59 PM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I found out that we are all phantasms in the mind of Alan Ruck.
posted by Eideteker at 2:00 PM on May 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm talking a lot more about my penis now.
posted by found missing at 2:01 PM on May 10, 2009


I had not previously realized the importance of the Treaty of Westphalia. Now I include it in all my personal correspondence.
posted by Cranberry at 2:02 PM on May 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


I dno't tinhk my witrnig sytle is all taht dfifenrt form waht it uesd to be, but my seplilng has gnoe to siht.
posted by logicpunk at 2:09 PM on May 10, 2009


I'm a lot more apath-
posted by djgh at 2:19 PM on May 10, 2009


I haven't been around here long enough for Metafilter to permanently change the way I write - but like Devils Rancher, I've really noticed how the lack of an edit function changes the way that writing looks. On other forums (and in real life) I'll write something in a fairly rough form and then edit the hell out of it. But here you have to make the edits before hitting post, and that's been a rough transition.

If anything, my writing has gotten shorter and less rhythmic as I try hard to not make any mistakes. The old cadences have been mostly absent, except maybe for this post. But maybe it's just a matter of practice, and getting used to the 'filter's ways.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:24 PM on May 10, 2009


I I I I
I notice the first letter of sentences more.

Generally because it takes me about 10 posts to realize I'm trapped in a damned alphabet thread.
posted by graventy at 2:26 PM on May 10, 2009


Is that like a Groundhog Day?
posted by Kevin Street at 2:29 PM on May 10, 2009


Just a bit
K?
Lol
posted by Cranberry at 2:40 PM on May 10, 2009


it make me rite beter.
posted by The Deej at 3:09 PM on May 10, 2009


I'd be interested in a new writing subsite. Stories, articles, poetry, & prose contributed by members. Sort of like MeMu but without the music, just the words and the spaces between them.

I'd wholly support such a thing-- a McSweeny's for the masses. I started that sentence, and this, with I. I am more acutely aware of this sort of redundancy in my writing these days, on preview.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:11 PM on May 10, 2009


It's influenced the way I talk to others on the internet. I try to frame my arguments in a more concise and orderly manner, express myself with greater courtesy and precision, keeping the focus more on the argument rather than the speaker in question. The lack of an image tag here has also tamped down my near compulsive behavior of responding to every bizarre or curious statement by just posting this guy.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:14 PM on May 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


My writing, it now vibrates?
posted by AndrewStephens at 3:19 PM on May 10, 2009


I use 'hope' as a synonym for 'help'.
posted by Paragon at 3:20 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


No. F*ck you.
posted by R. Mutt at 4:16 PM on May 10, 2009


I'd wholly support such a thing-- a McSweeny's for the masses.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Mediocrity?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:19 PM on May 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


*what was the question?
posted by R. Mutt at 4:20 PM on May 10, 2009


How has contributing to Metafilter affected your writing style?

It has forced me to broaden the alternatives I consider; for example, could the answer be Hitler? Or, Ghostbusters II?
posted by found missing at 4:23 PM on May 10, 2009


Hmm...MeFi's been important to my style, but it hasn't really "affected" it in the conventional sense. Instead, it has "maintained" it.

I live in a non-English speaking country. I speak English with some folks here, but for the most part my days are spent in Japanese. MetaFilter has been really important to me in that it has provided a consistent avenue for writing, which prevents the gradual decline that happens when you live outside your language's geographical region.
posted by Bugbread at 4:25 PM on May 10, 2009


Metafilter: has not really affected my writing style, if you discount the occasional additional colon.
posted by pompomtom at 4:28 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I rant and flail and shoot off sparks and jets of steam less than I used to, even if I still enjoy the occasional loquacity spasm. I was at almost 600,000 words on the site a couple of years ago, so I must be up to the better part of a million by now. I am far more aware now than I was that if there is some way for what you say to be misinterpreted, someone will find it, and so I am, when I've got the time and energy, a lot more careful than I once was. With varying success.

My style has changed somewhat over the years; Metafilter's been part of that, but I'm not sure how big a part.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:00 PM on May 10, 2009


Nthing general improvement in caution.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:06 PM on May 10, 2009


Now when I cite papers for school I hyperlink the titles to their abstracts on pubmed. ...that's a lie, I don't do that, I do lie more though.
posted by pwally at 6:05 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I start typing, then wonder if it's worth the effort to contribute my own opinion to a thread that already has several multi-paragraph responses of sufficiently high quality that my own contribution is likely useless. Then I delete my musings and move on.

The temptation to do that now is high.

I also suffer from this problem when starting research papers.
posted by knapah at 6:20 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I consciously avoid using the word "seriously," since I've noticed that this word is overused on Mefi as a way to express that one is not being facetious. I really mean this.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:40 PM on May 10, 2009


I try to frame my arguments in a more concise and orderly manner, express myself with greater courtesy and precision, keeping the focus more on the argument rather than the speaker in question.

Wow, are we talking about the same website?
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:47 PM on May 10, 2009


"Contributing"? *snort*
posted by fleacircus at 7:00 PM on May 10, 2009


Not at all.
posted by jeffamaphone at 7:13 PM on May 10, 2009


I now type a lot better with just one hand...
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:19 PM on May 10, 2009


Great question, even if it hasn't changed one's writing style at all.

I try to make points really clearly. I think I write here in a much more expository or persuasive and much less rambling/reflective style than I do elsewhere. So I'd say it's helped my skill within certain writing genres. I've learned to scan whatever I'm saying for weaknesses and try to anticipate and address challenges before they occur. I've also learned to be sure I know the definitions of any terms I'm using, because if I'm not using a term correctly it'll surely be called out. So it's helped my precision as well.

Getting raked over the coals for all sorts of rhetorical errors and fallacies in my early days on MeFi, when giants walked the earth, really did a lot for my approach here and has helped my writing in general. As Brandon Blatcher points out, for good or ill, my style's hallmark is sheer verbosity. Editors hate that, and with good reason, so knowing that it's really hard for me to just cut cut cut, I work hard to make sure I'm saying something with all the sentences and not just blathering. Even though a lot of my comments are long I spend a decent amount of time editing to make sure they're not too repetitive and that the clauses are generally there for a reason.

Still and all, I think it helps a lot to try to honor your own tone and a voice with your writing on the internet, where you have no other cues about a person's intentions or attitudes. When I think about the people I "know" on MetaFilter - those who I haven't yet met, but know only through their words - the idea that I "know" them comes down to two sets of information: the facts they have revealed about their lives (jobs, geography, interests, experiences), and the style and tone of their comments. Wherever the two really square, you have a strong presence. But even when you don't know squat about the persons facts, you can definitely know them through a consistent style and presence.
posted by Miko at 7:45 PM on May 10, 2009


I started using Delicious because of the need to immediately favorite good comments for posterity. So there's that.

Unfortunately, my tendency to type "." in response to news of grave misfortune or death hasn't translated so well to the rest of the Internet.
posted by limeonaire at 8:03 PM on May 10, 2009


On the basis of volume, it seems that contributing to Metafilter pretty much is my writing style.
posted by flabdablet at 8:08 PM on May 10, 2009


I think it's affected my reading style more than my writing style. Folks here are always turning me on to things I wasn't aware of, or inspiring me to re-examine something I might otherwise have dismissed.

So thanks for that, people. It's one of my favorite things about this place.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:11 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have become much more conscious of local references in my writing, because I get my nose rubbed in other people's assumptions about what's common knowledge all the time.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:24 PM on May 10, 2009


Generally speaking, I've tended to notice a seeming trend in my writing towards what might perhaps be called a kind of increase in a rather circumlocutory style.

(or, put differently, heaps of weasel words)
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:29 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think I'm a more candid writer since mefi, and while not more concise, I do try harder to write persuasively. I think my writing has changed in that I think more carefully about what I am saying and try to filter out assumptions precisely because I really have no idea who I'm writing to or where in the world you are. None. (I mean really, just who *are* you people?)

For example, I seem to have been under the impression a while back, Afroblanco, that you were a black woman. No idea why, actually. Anyway, usually, in 'real' life, I do know something about the person I am writing/speaking to. Here, not so much.

So now, whenever I write, on mefi or otherwise, even thought I might know the person, I often assume I don't know their unstated beliefs - and I imagine that really does change one's style a bit.
posted by anitanita at 8:46 PM on May 10, 2009


i often write in rhyme, you know
and MeFi's no exception, so
i've sometimes started songs right here
in comments about cakes, or beer
in fact, most any FPP
might spark a coupla rhymes from me
and comments that the site has hosted?
they've inspired some songs i've posted
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:52 PM on May 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


I learned English through classes in school alone (my first language is French). I used to think I wrote perfectly idomatic English. And I think I can, in formal settings, mostly. But the informal (but more formal than, say IRC) nature of MetaFilter make my non-nativeness really stand out. At least it does to me, when I reread my comments.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:18 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


And now, "How has detracting from Metafilter affected your writing style?"
posted by grobstein at 10:05 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


HotPatatta alerted me to the fact that in one of our email conversations the other day I cut and pasted a relevant bit of text from his previous message, emphasized it, and then added my own commentary below it, metafilter-style (the hijacked text being: Stop trying to steal my money, you greedy bitch! You will be defeated.)

So, yeah. The conventions have definitely seeped into other areas of my internet life.

I think that I've been more attuned to how my writing will be interpreted by others and careful about rereading my work not only for typos but also for comprehension.

This may not be related, but it's possible that Metafilter has been the cause of the abundance of interrogatives that are usually present in my research papers. Since most of my postings are answers to AskMe questions, my responses usually involve asking the poster to clarify something or to learn more details about the problem.

Rereading my graduate essays this year, I noticed that I include a ton of questions, some of which are rhetorical but others that I included to invoke further thought by the reader. Could just be my style, though.
posted by amicamentis at 10:20 PM on May 10, 2009


Considering how often someone else will pipe up with what I was about to say before I'm halfway done writing it, I write and post too quickly and make a million mistakes. And I feel funny putting punctuation outside the quotes if it's not part of the quote (Brit rules) even though I use the American version of words like "color" and "humor". (<==note period outside of the quoted word) It just never made sense to me to use the American rules regarding quotes and punctuation. And it's not because of Metafilter, but I've done a lot of drugs in the past 3-4 years and it's definitely affected my writing for the worse, however, lately I'm trying to lay off the goodies with varying success.
posted by Devils Slide at 10:30 PM on May 10, 2009


If I find myself writing in real life like I do on metafilter, I realize I need to throw away everything I've just written, take a walk and try again.
posted by whoaali at 11:29 PM on May 10, 2009


No.
It's not really 'writing.' It's conveying an idea or opinion, but briefly enough that at times there's not much construction involved. I mean, you check your grammar for square and plumb and then go. I have the red-dot thing turned on for typos.
I thought maybe it kind of had at one point that I was learning to frame snark better but in the end, no I still pretty much suck at it. Also there's no telling how someone else will take what you're trying to get across - even the most lucid writers get totally misunderstood.
It has, though, as a bunch of other people have mentioned, made me sit down and shut-up on a couple occasions when I read something that expresses perfectly anything I could think to contribute to a discussion.

And it's not about the favorites, it's about the links.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:31 AM on May 11, 2009


Q: HHC2MFAYWS?

A: IDK. HTFSIK?

(IDTMFTMTWIAILT. MIW.)

Addendum: I'm hoping that one day contributing to MetaFilter will convince Smedleyman to leave space between his paragraphs like everybody else, so his rantiloquies stop being such a choppy wall of eye sore.
posted by dgaicun at 2:33 AM on May 11, 2009


It's mostly made me realize what a hard time I have getting even the simplest thoughts down in text.
This.

I don't think I really contribute much in any real sense, but the "tough audience" vibe here makes me think twice before committing what I blurt out. Once I got used to being able to edit my comments (and other peoples - oh, the power, it makes my head swim) on MeCha, it took me a while to automatically remember that I have no ability here to retroactively fix my typos and that adds to my making sure I think "better read through this once more, just to be sure" before hitting post.

Any effect has been based more, I'm sure, on reading here rather than writing - I read a hell of a lot more than I write and I think that being exposed to all these writing stars has helped by giving me examples of how to write well that haven't been checked and proof-read and edited by a whole team of people. What I see here is real writing by real people, not a team effort.
posted by dg at 2:59 AM on May 11, 2009


Generally speaking, I've tended to notice a seeming trend in my writing towards what might perhaps be called a kind of increase in a rather circumlocutory style.

Uppercase, Ubu?!?? You're evolving right before my very eyes. Fuckin' show-off.
posted by gman at 3:43 AM on May 11, 2009


I used to know fuck nothing. Now I know fuck all.

I am also an adept plagiarist.
posted by Jofus at 3:46 AM on May 11, 2009


And it's not about the favorites, it's about the links.

This is what I meant about a new more subtle brand of snark. It's weird what gets favorited and what doesn't. I whip out an offhaded remark that gets 30 favorites, then the next day, I'll carefully construct OMG the Funniest One Liner I Ever Wrote!™ and nobody notices.

It's be more about the links for me if everyone hadn't already made the cool posts I was going to construct.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:12 AM on May 11, 2009


Can a mod ban me until they get the edit window going? I can neither type nor read, functionally at least.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:15 AM on May 11, 2009


Is this something I'd have to know how to write to be affected by?
posted by trip and a half at 5:37 AM on May 11, 2009


Metafilter has made me give up communicating anywhere else online. It's just not worth it.
posted by slimepuppy at 6:28 AM on May 11, 2009


> have become much more conscious of local references in my writing, because I get my nose rubbed in other people's assumptions about what's common knowledge all the time.

Yes, I think this is true of me as well. Astute observation.
posted by languagehat at 6:45 AM on May 11, 2009


Easy! I quit writing my blog. I know the internet has missed me and there's a great void out there but it was for your own good.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:55 AM on May 11, 2009


Generally speaking, I've tended to notice a seeming trend in my writing towards what might perhaps be called a kind of increase in a rather circumlocutory style.

(or, put differently, heaps of weasel words)
posted by UbuRoivas


So you began to write like Sarah Palin speaks?
posted by kingbenny at 7:08 AM on May 11, 2009


One of the two main things I've noticed about how Metafilter has affected my style is in the speed of composition; I've had a couple of instances where someone at work remarked they required something written up, usually expecting that they would have it within a couple of days, and they were shocked when I handed it to them, completed, 20 minutes later.

There is something about the urge to clearly make a point when in a heated conversation, and to do so in a timely manner, that has improved my ability to sit down and hammer out a couple of paragraphs of text very rapidly. And since my position isn't one that generally would be expected to produce distributable copy, the mere fact that I'm usually able to string sentences together in a way that explains my position in a relatively articulate fashion seems to keep everyone pretty content.

A less useful, and one might say, more disturbing trend is for my mefi voice to creep into my real world conversations. It's fun here to make jokes about my desire to destroy the world (with fire!) or hunt irritating people for sport, but occasionally, I'll be talking with a coworker and hear those concepts start coming out of my mouth.

I've started privately referring to these little moments and "dipping the cup into my mefi stream of consciousness to see what comes out".

More often than, I find that it's something wildly inappropriate for the workplace.
posted by quin at 8:24 AM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've written more on metafilter in the last four or five years than I have everywhere else combined. Email is probably a not-too-close second, and creative writing for its own sake is in third and only comes along in discrete chunks when I have a reason.

So it's a little tricky, like a couple other folks have suggested already, to say how mefi has affected "my writing" in some high-falutin' sense, on account of me not really being much of a writer in any other context.

I've grown up with the site, and I've become a more careful writer in the process, that much I can say for sure. I've also become a more careful reader, and I think those two areas of growth are pretty tightly bound—when I look back at my comments from seven or eight years ago, I can see a real difference there, both in how I expressed myself and the (lack of) care with which I fit my comments to those that had come before or to the post content that had me commenting in the first place.

Being a mod has put an interesting kind of additional pressure on me, probably much to my benefit. Expressing myself clearly and forthrightly in a timely fashion is a challenge sometimes, and I think I've gotten much better at it over time just out of necessity—a solid, unprovocative statement of site policy and practice or my personal position on a mod decision or metatalk complaint right out of the gate seems like the best possible insurance against a lot of extra arguing (whether between user and mod or among users) later on.

When I get it right the first time, everybody wins and I can do something with my day other than trying to fix it in the second go-around. That's a hell of an incentive.

But more generally I think I've just gotten a lot out of being surrounded by all the smart people here: the forceful thinkers who have shown me the value of a tight, well-expressed argument, the linguaphiles whose avid wordnerdy has bolstered my own love affair with vocabulary, the editors and stylists who have shown me new methods for building my thoughts into readable and likable sentences and paragraphs. There is a lot of amazing literary background radiation on this site.

I like that most of what I do here happens in writing. I'm definitely a talker when I get going, as anyone who has been to a meetup with me can attest, but while I'm reasonably confident of my ability to express myself effectively in speech, I feel like I get a lot more bang-for-buck out of the written word. The ability to elide all my filled pauses and backtrackings and only put the finished product out there is a big part of that, and I think that as far as that goes writing here has helped me get closer to the finished product the first time out and has probably helped me a bit with the conciseness of my speech. Though I still doubt anyone would describe my speech as "concise". Heh.

(or, put differently, heaps of weasel words)

I had for a long time a habit of including lots of qualifiers in my writing, and that's one of the things that I've worked to reduce over the last few years. My comments here are still rife with kind ofs and sort ofs and their ilk, but I try to make a point of using them to explicitly qualify or soften rather than using them as an excuse to just not commit to a statement or a line of thinking.

That there's such a big tonal challenge to conversation in text is one of the interesting things about writing here, both in a mod capacity and as just a userland interlocutor, and there's some usefulness to building in a qualifier to soften the blow of an otherwise strident statement sometimes, though, yeah, it's easy to let it swing too far the other way and end up in a position where you're never saying anything at all.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:57 AM on May 11, 2009


linguaphiles may be wordnerdy, but they engage in wordnerdery
posted by found missing at 9:12 AM on May 11, 2009


Great blasting fuck. Well, I did my best.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:15 AM on May 11, 2009


You bettar beleive is haz!
posted by Pollomacho at 9:44 AM on May 11, 2009


On the basis of volume, it seems that contributing to Metafilter pretty much is my writing style.

Yeah, this is totally true for me. I have a blog that about three people (one of whom is my mom) read; and since the focus of that is photography, it's really not writing-intensive. I would say that I write probably 3x as much on MetaFilter as I do over there. Easily.

The only other venue where I write regularly would be email, but since my conversations are all with close friends and family, I can get away with being a hell of a lot lazier about precise wording than I would be posting stuff on MeFi.

My work doesn't involve any writing at all, and I'm not a writer in any meaningful sense of the word. So yeah, I guess my time on MeFi has tightened up my commenting skills over the years, but it hasn't affected my writing off-site since I do very little of that in the first place.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:38 AM on May 11, 2009


I'm a different writer on MeFi than I am "in real life," so if anything, it has given me a chance to be that different writer rather than changed who I am as a writer. Metafilter allows me to:

1) End thoughts in prepositions.
2) One-off without twice or thrice rereading what I've written.
3) Argue a trivial point.
4) Not argue an important point.
5) Be snide and compassionate in alternating conversations.
6) Exercise occasional jokeyness.
7) Generally feel that the stakes are low & relax.
posted by mrmojoflying at 12:20 PM on May 11, 2009


Way down here where no one will see it, I should confess: I wrote a description of the skills needed for a position. One of the necessary assets I wrote as 'computer-fu'. As I wrote, I did not think twice about the term - obviously.
posted by Cranberry at 1:50 PM on May 11, 2009


I keep a journal, but I just realized that my last entry in it (last month -- I slack) was a copy/paste of a Metafilter post.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:53 PM on May 11, 2009


After a while, I began adding elaborate clauses filled with disclaimers, statements of generality, reminders of probability rather than perfect correlation, etc., most especially in hot button topics. Mostly because of the "YOU CAN'T ASSUME THAT!!!!" crew, ready to take offense on the behalf of others, looking for bits to lawyer.

Changing "men are taller to women" to "as a statistical average and barring illness or cultural practice, men in a given ethnic group tend to be taller than women in the same ethnic group, though great areas of overlap do occur, and (not that there's anything wrong with that) there is no value judgment placed on height, with perhaps a minor utility for picking things out of tall shelves," then scrabbling about for something compensatory to say about the virtues of being short is overly florid and a waste of time.

Now, I just throw in the weasel bits at the front and say, "Grant it from here on out." People know better. If they want to go on after that, then I know what they are and don't feel particularly bad about calling them on it. There's no appeasing them in any case, so I'd rather just save the effort.
posted by adipocere at 2:01 PM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Between the death of BBSes in the mid-90s and my discovery of MeFi in 2004, there was sort of a chasm where I didn't do any writing at all outside of schoolwork. So I do have to credit the site with getting me to write again.

I have since raised my standards for language usage; both in what I expect from myself and from others. I like what cortex said about "literary background radiation" -- it's very fitting.

I've only found one downside -- that it's easy to get stuck writing in a certain tone. Most of my writing on MeFi is either quick and snarky or formal and somewhat aggressive. When writing a friendly email, I have to stop myself and say, "This is not MeFi. This is not MeFi." I would even go so far as to say that writing a friendly email requires a different set of skills entirely.

I do wish I could channel some of my energy into creative writing. Why is it so much easier to write when you're reacting to something that somebody else said or did?

I don't really know the answer to that question. Perhaps I should Ask Metafilter.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:21 PM on May 11, 2009


Metafilter: Perhaps I should Ask Metafilter
posted by ornate insect at 10:36 PM on May 11, 2009


Why is it so much easier to write when you're reacting to something that somebody else said or did?

For the same reason that it's easier to have a conversation than it is to make a speech.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:11 AM on May 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why is it so much easier to write when you're reacting to something that somebody else said or did?

Because it's easier to tear something down than build something up.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:18 AM on May 12, 2009


That's just what I'd expect a jerk to say.
posted by klangklangston at 10:19 AM on May 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


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