Thursday, 10 May 2012

A short bitch about websites…but not yours, of course

A great deal has seriously not changed where writing is concerned. 

Believe me, in the current fast-passing age of Cloud, Tweet, Flirt, Spurt, Jot, Slot and I’ve Already Got techno-comms joy – as we tear open the next present and throw away the paper, for that three-second endorphin hit – little changes about the way we express ourselves. It’s mostly blunt and clumsy and that’s the way it’s been for about 30 years in my (time for a short slurp) vey vey humble sperience.

You try to tell someone something compelling and interesting about a service or a product, so you draw in your breath and you huff and you puff and you put on your account manager’s hat and you write some rather boring, samey prose about your excellent wotsits.

But don’t take this personally. It’s been a hard day. Among other things I was asked to rewrite some of an otherwise okay website for a client in the silliest short time possible and when I saw what I had to deal with I reached for the wooden spoon. This implement is useful for a little auto-smacking to keep me from crashing into the screen as I wonder what to do with the dusty pot-pourri of words picked from the usual bag.

Truth is, I’d prefer to chew packetfuls of dry biscuits than read a typical website and like most of us I only read what’s really necessary to read, although the best stuff is usually missing. Tell me how and why it works, for example; why I should have it; the difference it would make to me as a customer, as a business, as a potential subscriber. Don’t tell me everything is top quality or how good you are at delivering or how friendly you are; sell the idea to me; persuade me…tell me a story even that lulls me awake.

A lot of people writing websites think they are doing these things and sometimes they push a little daring tongue into a cheek but it is usually an unnoticeable and half-hearted attempt, except to the keen eye. Be rude and daring – you’ve never had so much freedom to be ballsy – and none of this sentence refers to lewdness, only to inventiveness, gutsiness, belief in what you are saying.

Then there’s unnecessarily poor writing, misspelling, lack of punctuation, duplication of words and phrases, all kinds of nasty things crawling about the page. Sometimes the writer decides to put something in upper case, then it’s in lower; then it disappears altogether and turns up as another thing altogether with a new pair of trousers.

And no one seems to understand anyone else’s point of reference. This is perhaps because we are in such a cross-cultural melée, a trans-global technospeke sort of world, where the weight and emphasis of a thing cannot be easily judged because it is only representative of something in a shadowy way. Even reference to the ever-commoner tweet is a thin-sounding idea lacking weight. It is a fleeting, bleating and momentary thing and another bloody tiresome doobrey to check up on if you’ve the faintest wish to do so.

I ask myself, do I want to be part of a world where – so I’m told – a single well-piped tweet can attract thousands of followers? There is something almost bacterial in this kind of swarming and it’s all so ephemeral but without any of the prettiness attached to that word. And all of the cousins and imitators of the tweet hovering round the social media bouncy castle are even more flittery in their gatherings, but not so visible in the waning light.

I’ve scarcely started and I’m already turning pink. One criticism I haven’t mentioned – of a great many when it comes to writing this sort of tired blather (and I mean mine not ‘theirs’) – is mixing metaphors. Metaphors are frequently mixed but only when one notices they are metaphors; mostly they are clichés and bits of homely wisdom that are so flaccid with use that they scarcely blink from the pillow. As to actually mixing this stuff, look at the verbal cupboards I’ve been throwing open with abandon in the kitchen and science laboratory and rubbish pit of words – just in this short diatribe. Mixing? Hardly! I’ve been chucking the stuff out like spaghetti when you open the bag by the wrong end.

But really, in writing – especially when some one is doing it with a bit of gusto and faith – I’d rather see a load of jumbled metaphors than the same lousy contenders smeared onto the sentence.

There, I feel better now. I’ll get back to the job in hand.

Actually, on review, that first sentence is not so bad after all…hmmmm…now there’s quite a useful turn of phrase…Is it the dimness of wine that I’m feeling or do I truly believe these people’s deliverables may be delivered; that their people are their greatest asset; that they will tailor their service to suit their clients requirements? …SMACK! 

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