Whether it is sheer laziness, lack of imagination, poor editing, or the fact that most authors think that their audience are made up of auto lobotomized Ineffably Stupid Idiots, there has been a disturbing growth in using the same format for their articles, regardless of the topic at hand.
You know it as the “TOP TEN LIST WHY (fill in d’blank)” Sad to say, this is a growing phenomena.
On e week ago, as I perused news sources, websites, and even dared go where no man has gone before, I counted 23 places that used a “TOP TEN LIST,” or some variant of it. It is not limited to noncommercial, personal blogs, but includes places like Huffington, Politico, Time, NewYork Times, Chicago Tribune, even the venerated Talking Points. The three places where I have rarely, if ever, seen this silly technique are the BBC, Japan News, and Al Jazeera. That says something, no?
FROM THE CHURCH OF INEFFABLE STUPIDITY:
In honor of this boring, overused, lazy-assed, and contemptible technique, here are Pastor Agnostic’s TOP TEN RULES FOR SUCCESSFUL BLOGGING:
1. The First point should always have the biggest bang. In practice, it rarely does. Instead, lazy writers and poor editors use this slot for a teaser, something that titillates and tickles, rather than informs and sets a point out clearly.
Often, all too often, the first point is merely a restatement of the title, with little more than fluff and puff. Sometimes, although rarely, the author will make a decent point, and for that the dear reader is required to feel “grateful.”
2. The Second point is usually somewhat more direct and informative. It is as though the lazy writer managed to warm up, and get some of the mental rust knocked off their brain, before engaging their fingers. This point tends to be cogent, rational, and sometimes quite informative. Oh, if they would only stop here.
Alas, it rarely happens.
3. Scrambling for support, seeking any port in a storm, picking lint from the most convenient navel, Point #3 more than any other, is typically some tired, overused, and unfortunate cliche. Anecdotal, cliched, strained, and limp as Limbaugh without his Viagra, the lazy writer employs ridiculous analogies, descriptions, and quite often suffers from a case of insufferable “cute.” If professional organizations had any decent editors, they would make it a practice of eradicating #3 as a habit, even without ever reading it. The quality of writing in general would automatically improve.
4. Point #4 – The Maths. By now, 70% of all authors are stumped. They probably had a good idea, a spark of creativity, (or what started off as a dreary assignment from their boss) until the task of actually explaining themselves cogently was upon them. 84% of the time, the author will cite some useless statistic, often having nothing to do with the matter at hand. In 78% of the cases, the use of statistics neither supports, nor detracts from the topic, although in 11% of the remaining cases, there is a 50% chance that the no less than 68% of statistics are simply made up, more than 48% of the time. Literally two thirds of all blogs suffer from this technique, more than 67% of the time!
5. What becomes painfully clear by now is that the Fifth work best when filled with liquor. As a convincing point in a 10 Point article, Point #5 often fails. For this reason, lazy authors often insist on inserting several “False Comparisons” and “False Equivalencies” here. The most recent example in such poor writing is exemplified by comparing Occupy Wall Street with the TeaBugger movement, repeating it often enough in the hopes that the idea takes hold. Fox News is probably the guiltiest of this exercise, although I am too afraid of the damage I would cause my computer and/or TV if I tried watching Fox long enough to confirm this theory.
6. The 6th point is best described as a refuge from reality. In many ways, it can be related to, and often hard to distinguish from #5. The lazy author will cite a series of “Poor Examples” intended to bolster their argument. A close examination of those “Examples” quickly shows how hollow their logic is and how ridiculous the examples were. Masters of this technique can be found populating the Op/Ed pages of the New York Times, WaPo, and Politico. Thomas Friedman, David Brooks, Kathleen Parker, and several others, are masters of using and abusing this technique. Take a look any any of their articles, and you will find multiple classic examples of this tool.
7. By the time your lazy author reaches Point #7, he/she is in serious trouble. Even if it was a good idea to start with, good writing rarely, if ever, lends itself to such indecent squeezing or stretching of a formerly solid idea into some artificial 10 Point Platform. Good prose is just that – prose. It requires editing, thinking, hard work, and creativity.
That leaves the lazy writer with one and only one choice: Repetition of points 1-3, simply phrased differently. Maybe, the author thinks, if I repeat my GOOD ideas, people will be more convinced by my article.
8. More often than not, there is no Point #8. Who ever suspected that Sarah Palin’s Word Salad Service, Inc., offered home and office delivery, providing filler words that signify nothing and often make no sense. Seriously, look at any Point 8 in your standard 10 Point article, and ask yourself if #8 makes any sense. You betcha!
9. Point #9 – Cognito Ergo Sometimes. By now, the author is desperate. He/she labeled their article a Ten Point article, and damn it, they still have two to go. TEH HORROR! The best bet is to take a stab in the dark, to make a bizarre point so out of the mainstream that it either makes them sound brilliant or so much like a 1900s French Philosopher, that no one can understand them anyway. Foreign words, a liberal dose of Thesaurus usage, and a sprinkling of off-beat references often populate #9 points because there is little else that they can do.
10. Ah, the end! Exhaustion, relief, happiness, the first brew of the day, and a grateful pet who the author ignored throughout the exercise now beckon the frustrated, worn out author. Perhaps it is the relief of having almost completed the task, perhaps, it is the lack of any more pressure, self imposed, or imposed by deadlines. Maybe it is simply time to go back to the original spark of an idea. Regardless of the reasons why, #10 points often contain some of the best ideas and writing in the entire article. Could it be that they saved the best for last? Sure, but given the crap that precedes it, it is far more likely to be accidental, than a planned design.
Now, you can write your own top ten blog!