By in Writing

A Tao of Web Writing

The Taijitu – or what we Westerners often call the “yin yang” symbol – teaches us that in any pair of opposites, there is a flow of movement from one pole into the other in an endless cycle. Even more importantly, each characteristic holds within itself the seed of its opposite.

So love and hate are not the two very different emotions we expect them to be, but rather two sides of a single coin. And being born is but the first step we take in our journey towards death.

In writing, just as in the rest of life, there are things we perceive as opposites. Fact and opinion. Creativity and information. Writing for a human audience and writing for the search engines. But are these things really opposites – or are they like love and hate, life and death?

Could it be that even writing a good informative post challenges the writer to add some personal details?

Could it even be that the writer's own personal experience is what led to researching the information in the first place?

Informative writing springs from personal experience, and in turn it contains the seed of the personal within it. There is a flow from one pole to another, and always back again. There is no way to separate the two opposites in good web writing. And no reason to even try.

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Image credit: Puzzle graphic by Gerd Altmann (aka geralt)/Pixabay (Public domain, CC0 1.0 )

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indexer wrote on July 14, 2014, 4:42 AM

Sometimes, when writing an information piece, you have to fight hard to keep personal opinion at bay in order to be objective. But it might also be said that the selection of facts that you choose to include (and, just as importantly, exclude) is an opinion in itself. I therefore have to agree with you!

AliCanary wrote on July 14, 2014, 5:14 AM

I write even my "informative" pieces with a conversational style, because I like to be entertaining as well as informative. My students can tell you: my class is like a stand-up routine, sometimes. They keep signing up for my classes, so I can't knock it!

MegL wrote on July 14, 2014, 8:51 AM

On midsummer's day, I know that we have started the slide to winter and shorter days, but at midwinter, on the shortest day of the year, I also know that we have now started the (slow) turn from short, cold, dark days towards the long warm days of summer, so each peak contains its own trough. I think you are right - that the writer's personal experience is often what leads to researching a particular area in the first place.

Anja wrote on July 14, 2014, 12:07 PM

I think that informative articles can be written either way, in an objective, just-the-facts way or in a personal journey of exploration type of way. Either can work well for SEO and each will appeal to a demographic of web readers.

Ruby3881 wrote on July 14, 2014, 9:21 PM

I hadn't been thinking of that aspect of it when I wrote this, John. But you are very right! The approach we take to writing about a subject tells a lot about the writer: the facts we include or exclude, the language we use to describe the subject, etc, are all good ways that our personality seeps into even our non-fiction writing.

Ruby3881 wrote on July 14, 2014, 9:40 PM

We all have a "voice," and some are very humorous! I imagine your classes are a lot of fun, Ali :)

Ruby3881 wrote on July 14, 2014, 10:02 PM

I love how you describe the solar cycle having peaks and troughs! I have a post here about the irony of midsummer, and I think that was one of the few times I didn't specifically talk about the peaks and transition points that are the equinoxes and solstices. It was a different day for me, I guess, that day. It's a perfect example of how even the same writer can make different choices about a non-fiction topic over a period of time.

Ruby3881 wrote on July 14, 2014, 10:05 PM

Very much agreed, Anja! And there are also varying degrees in between those two styles. I think a lot of people who view the upcoming changes on this site as negative ones just need to look at things from a new vantage point. There are plenty of ways to preserve our personal flair, while still writing informative posts :)

Ruby3881 wrote on July 17, 2014, 1:57 PM

I suppose when I wrote this, I was thinking more of the writing that we do for sites like Persona Paper where WE choose topics. It is very true that writing style changes when writing work for hire!

KimRemesch wrote on July 17, 2014, 5:00 PM

John/ me this is what separates a blogger from a journalist. John, you are correct that what facts you choose will color an article. Journalists are trained with ethics, though I know I'm going to hear a barrage about how they fail. They (we) do. I always say that if I'm doing my job correctly, you should not be able to tell what I think. (Joe Rossi, the fictional reporter on the Ed Asner show, once said: Journalists are not joiners. It was my mantra. I affiliated myself with nothing for most of my career. I'm not hardcore as I once was, so my opinions are often in my writing, but that's because I don't consider Internet writing as remotely akin to journalistic endeavors which should remain unbiased. It's insulting to the audience to assume they are too stupid to make up their minds. I don't have to agree with the various "facts" (very loose term, in my opinion), but I have to throw them out there. All of that said, when someone tells me they read X about an organization, etc., I tell them that I know I can convince a large amount of people to agree with me based on how I manipulate facts and information. It's a solemn promise I make to my readers to stay unbiased and let them figure it out....but that's not in the same realm as content writing, IMO. Content sites don't have editors and fact checkers. No one has approved the person writing the article in the first place. It's a system with no checks and balances. Because of that, I'm good with putting personal opinions in "articles" here. As a reader, I would assume that any content is full of opinions, even if it's meant to be objective.

Ruby3881 wrote on July 24, 2014, 6:11 PM

I'm not sure where indexer was going when he spoke of the different facts we choose to include or exclude. But I wouldn't say that a choice like that is necessarily an ethical one. It's often just a matter of how to approach a newsworthy topic. There is a straightforward, "just the facts" approach. But honestly, what's the point in writing those stories unless you were first on the scene? Every publication from here to Timbuktu will be carrying a syndicated item (or several) that gives all those same details.

Sometimes a more creative approach doesn't mean revisionism or taking sides. It can mean exploring one particular aspect of a story in more depth, and we will often see the mainstream media do that. There is no ethical dilemma in this kind of writing. It's more a question of writing for a specific audience, supplying unique content, and limiting the focus of an article.

k_mccormick2 wrote on August 2, 2014, 7:09 PM

I have never thought of my writing stemming from personal experiences. I think that this is something that is interesting to learn. I think that we don't pay attention to the personal experiences that can and often do influence the things that we write about. I need to try to find different topics to write about :)

Ruby3881 wrote on August 3, 2014, 3:28 PM

A lot of writing comes from the experiences of our daily life. Whether we write a personal post about being sick or we turn that inspiration into an informational post about dealing with a summer cold, it's all stemming from experiences we've had.