The problem(s) with written communication.

December 23, 2008

Any writer will tell you that they’ve been misunderstood at some point – perhaps many points – during their career. These misunderstandings occur when readers fail to read and subsequently project their feelings, misperceptions, fears and biases on the words in front of them.

Take a piece I recently wrote about Heifer International. The piece appeared in a publication ( known to often contain sarcastic essays. In fact, the subhead on that site says, “Not so gentle ramblings about the inane and the insane.”

If you read that subhead do you really think you’re going to get The New Yorker?

Further, if you saw some of the content in that column you’d be hard-pressed to really think the writer (me) was serious. Here are the closing paragraphs of that piece…

If I buy a pig and want to give it as a gift, Hickory Farms ensures that tasty pig parts get to my recipient. Not Heifer International. That’s crap. I might as well just buy one of those African children that Sally Struthers sells on late-night television.

At least with those kids you get a photo and sometimes a letter. With this crock of an animal giving program you don’t even get a feather or a snout necklace to memorialize the animal you’ve purchased.

I might not have grown up on a farm, but I can tell when someone’s shoveling manure. And Heifer International has crapped on my gift-giving plans for this holiday season.

The real difficulty – or challenge – lies in a writer’s quest to compete with short attention spans, increasingly visual information exchange and the dumbing down of society as a whole.

Don’t think this is true, go read some smart stuff and then get back to me with your comments. I suggest Chris Brogan, The Daily Kos, Sree Sreenivasan, Balloon Juice, and Slate.

Feel free to share your smarties here in the comments. I promise you I’ll take the time to read them.

Keep reading!