Thursday, August 8, 2013

Straight talk: an example (18) – Brendan O’Neill

For educational purposes, we writers should occasionally read, listen to, or view an example of straight talk. It doesn’t matter whether we agree or disagree with the statements – what matters is the way the statements are expressed. This exercise can make us more aware of the evasive diction (sample here) that besets us every day, so we won’t unconsciously imitate it.

An example of straight talk

Brendan O’Neill (pictured), editor of Spiked, says he is about a million years old in internet years. He wrote a curmudgeonly essay on what’s wrong with the internet. Although he slides into a couple of mixed metaphors, the 830-word essay is a fine example of straight talk. Here are the first three paragraphs:

What’s gone wrong with the internet? Being 39 – about a million in internet years – I remember when the web was slow-paced, unflashy, a sort of virtual salon where you’d read stuff and then chat about it with a handful of like-minded grown-ups in a quiet discussion forum. Not any more. Today, switching on the internet is like opening a sluice-gate of senselessness. It’s become a nauseating volcano of personal, invariably petty opinion, an arena one must navigate with trepidation lest one end up showered with every man and his dog’s opinions about stuff.

You now can’t read a news report online without having 400 commenters biting at the bit to tell you what they think about it. You can’t fix a holiday without glimpsing the 272 self-elected trip advisers waiting to inform you how awful the hotel you just booked is. As for Twitter – its users’ casually made revelations about their lives, their openness bordering on emotional sluttishness, make the antics on Oprah’s couch seem restrained in comparison.

The web has become a cacophony of commentary and confessionalism, a gathering of shrill individuals dying to share their half-formed views, their feelings, their pain, their holiday snaps, their cats. Is it time to step away from the machines and do something less headache-inducing instead? Some think so. A fightback of sorts has been launched against the colonisation of the internet by morons.

The Takeaway: We are often startled by straight talk. We react this way because we have become habituated to evasive, pussyfooting, sniveling diction (more samples here). I advise you to occasionally read, listen to, or view some straight talk. It will help you become less likely to passively absorb and unconsciously imitate evasive diction.

See disclaimer.

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