I am weirdly competitive. I thought it was just me, but my friend Allie mentioned being “highly competitive when it doesn’t count” and I just burst out laughing. Now I find that my friend Mitch has a little streak of it; he rose to the challenge of writing a whole blog post without commas.
Maybe Halpern has a point. It’s one thing to write in short sentences. The trick is to vary the cadence. Choppy sentences can come across as annoyingly sing-songy. He’s not wrong. It’s important to be clear. Sales copy is not a novel. Audiences vary in terms of education and comprehension. Never alienate readers by insisting that you “will not dumb down your writing.” Unrelenting use of a graduate level vocabulary can be exhausting and intimidating. The worst thing a writer can do is to put their own need to show off ahead of the reader’s need to understand.
But I’m not sure I believe any of what I just wrote. Unrelenting use of a graduate level vocabulary is fun for writers. This is why we do what we do. It’s impossible to show off with wordplay and dependent clauses in a world without commas. Terrible “rules” for writing make for bored readers. Can we find a balance? A happy medium between pretentious writing and overly simplistic writing would be good for readers and writers. Noodle on that a while.
Believe me when I say that the challenge Mitch proposed and the challenge that I’ve added for myself are painful when compounded in a single post. Every silly challenge has a purpose. Fun should be considered a purpose. Unbridled fun and hidden messages beat onerous chores and the doldrums of boredom. Never have I had so much fun since that time I wrote a Villanelle.
The poets reading this may recognize the sarcasm. Others may wish to try their hand at writing a villainous Villanelle. Don’t blame me if you end up walking in circles and muttering at walls. Onward and upward!
Silliness is a plus in tackling silly challenges. I’ve found that it is easier to approach a challenge with enthusiasm if it has a hefty dose of fun and silliness. Long and convoluted sentences are challenging to read. Leaving out all the commas doesn’t actually make it impossible to write them. Yesterday’s overblown and descriptive writing trends have fallen by the wayside. Blogging demands simplicity that does not obviously condescend to readers. Long-form writing has its place. Or does it? Go read a hundred blogs and find three without commas. Go read a hundred blogs and find three that sound like James Joyce. I ask you readers which you prefer? Now is the time for all good bloggers to come to the aid of their readers. Give it your best shot!
Commas are not evil. Heart emojis are not evil. And passive voice is not evil. Legitimate use cases exist for all of these things. Logic should prevail. Every rule of writing should be rooted in logic and common sense. No rule is utterly inviolable. Ghastly writing ensues from mindless adherence to mindless rules. Each rule is meant to be broken by a writer who understands and values the rule. Sensible writers and bloggers understand this but still tackle silly blogging challenges and impose unnecessary rules upon themselves and others.
If you’re paying close attention, I have seen Mitch’s challenge and raised him two. Any other weirdly competitive sorts out there care to pick the gauntlets and slap me back? 🙂 If you are not weirdly competitive, I hope you’ve at least gotten a chuckle from reading this!