I want to address some things that bother me a lot. If you’ll indulge me here, I occasionally need to rant. I try to read a lot of blogs. Some I’ve stopped reading because of certain things which have become common among bloggers stylistically (and some for content reasons). The poor form of writing makes reading the content difficult, and makes it difficult to take authors seriously. The poor use of writing styles and formats detract from content. Obviously, I won’t name names. These 5 trends are pretty widespread. Even some blogs by folks I really appreciate show signs of these and I too have occasionally failed in some of these respects (for which I have done the appropriate penance). I just need to get these things off my chest, and try to encourage all of us towards excellence in blogging (not that I can claim excellence or anything like that. I’m by no means an authority and I hardly have the clout to be influential over the Christian blogging world). So here’s a few problematic blogging trends which irk me:
1. Improper use of bold and italic font. Seriously, this one really aggravates me. I regularly see posts where close to half of the text is bold or italicized or underlined. Or entire paragraphs are in bold font. I will often not bother to read posts that do this because I find that it is sloppy and awkward and difficult to deal with as a reader. Bold and italics should be used very sparingly. The University of Oxford style guide suggests that in written work, bold font should be used for key pieces of information; dates, names, etc. not large chunks of text. Punctuation after bold words or phrases should not be in bold. This means multiple sentences together should not be in bold font. Try the “under 10 rule”. When too much text is in bold, the bold loses it’s purpose and significance. If so much is emphatic, your lose the power of emphasizing. If your content is good, you shouldn’t need to show your readers where the emphasis is. Let your words speak for themselves. Italics are for transliterated words or phrases from other languages or titles of other written works, or for distinguishing some text from the text around it (eg. wordpress default settings place all block quotes in italics [technically it shouldn’t] or to introduce a point within a subheading or some blog posts which contain a preamble or explanatory note at the beginning which should not be considered part of the post itself. Like here). Bold is for highlighting small bits of information or indicating headings/subheadings. Please, let’s commit to do better at this. If you aren’t sure, here’s a more comprehensive and helpful guide to italics and bold. Oh, and while we’re on fonts- pick one and use it. Don’t use multiple fonts and font sizes in the same post. It’s distracting. Blog posts should observe the same style guidelines as articles, essays, and books.
2. Use of extreme language. Generating a visceral, emotional response is a good way to generate attention, draw a crowd and stand out. But it’s not always a good idea, especially when talking about people. I see this a lot. It’s a turn off. Just because you disagree with someone’s ideas does not justify the use of certain terminology. I adamantly disagree with certain targets of progressive Christian bloggers’ rants, but I still feel the need to defend these targets, because the labels being thrown around are frankly as disturbing as the theology being criticized. This might be unpopular in some people’s minds, but Mark Driscoll is not a misogynist. He has an extremely narrow, and perhaps archaic understanding of gender roles. This is not misogyny. John Piper’s theology may be fatalistic and insensitive and misinformed with regards to God’s grace and compassion, but it is not abusive. The Gospel Coalition’s posts opposing gay marriage are lacking grace and nuance, but they are not dehumanizing. I would personally like to see these sorts of terms dropped from common usage in blogging.
3. Theological witch-hunting. In addition to criticizing theologically opposed idea with harsh language, I often find blogs and social media devoting far too much time and effort to nay saying those who are objectionable. Every time certain figures say anything, tweet anything, release a new book, or whatever, there is a sudden flood of critics tearing it apart. Within minutes of a new Driscoll or Piper tweet or new TGC article, the “antis” (as I’ll call them) jump on top of it and inundate twitter and the blogsphere with sarcasm, criticism, insults and what can be described as condemnation. I am not suggesting we shouldn’t speak out against bad theology when it comes our way. But instead what I am saying is that we know where certain people stand. Can we commit to counter bad with good, not name calling and denouncing. If we’ve rejected their stance, spoken our views, why do we need to follow them on twitter or read their blogs to find more fodder for our outrage? Yes, I’ve critiqued Driscoll’s teaching and the teachings of others on this blog, because of views they’ve articulated. Yes, that brand of theology is troubling. However, I find it disturbing that I know exactly what Driscoll has been up to without following his twitter feed or blog. I know Driscoll’s statements from the critics who screen shot his tweets and post them with scathing criticism. I don’t agree with Driscoll, Piper, et. al, but I am convinced that he is sincerely trying to follow Jesus in the best way he can with the tools he has. This may be horribly unpopular to say, but Driscoll is not an enemy of good theology, but a victim of his own bad hermeneutic.
4. Single phrase paragraphs.
Like this one.
Not full sentences.
Just small phrases.
Just like Rob Bell does.
This is not unacceptable, but really, really needs to be used sparingly. Yes, sometimes it helps to write like we speak. And sometimes we insert pregnant pauses, and slow speak to emphasize things. But this is something we should only use in small quantities to tease out a specific idea that deserves to be treated as a focal point. But for this to happen multiple times in a single post is worrisome.
5. Soap box blogs. If you blog has become only (or even mostly) about the same thing said in dozens of different ways, I will lose interest (just speaking my own opinion on this, some folks may like the single vision of some blogs). This is especially true in the case of soap box issues; gender roles or women’s issues, anti-“new-calvinism”, sexual orientation, or whatever it happens to be. Try to not be a voice on one thing only. Branch out into other things. I’ve stopped reading some blogs, because I would regularly think “you’ve said this same thing several times in the last month or two.”