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Hub Writing Can Kill You

Updated on December 18, 2011
Putting Thoughts Into Words
Putting Thoughts Into Words

If the headline drew you in, then my ploy worked. The ploy is the same as the near hoaxes used in advertising and news headlines -- something grossly/falsely exaggerated in order to draw your attention. This hub is really about the increasing confusion of the written word. The confusion is increasing because more people are writing -- thanks to new electronic devices and email. Though the amount of writing may have increased, the precision has declined exponentially.

Confusion is the order of the day in almost everything we read. Many news outlets on the Web allow a space for reader comments, and if you peruse them, you'll see that readership reaction is all over the map.

Pick any two people and have them read a single paragraph about any subject, then ask them about what they just absorbed. You will get differing responses. If the same paragraph was to be read by a large audience, the majority of interpretations might be similar, but there are a certain number who will internalize/personalize the paragraph to an unconventional, extreme degree.

If you ask each student in a classroom that had just read "Fahrenheit 451" what the novel was about, the purveyor would, again, receive as many interpretations as students participating in this hypothetical exam.

During my college years as an English major, I tended to receive Cs or B-minus grades on exams from professors who felt that his/her interpretation of a piece of literature was the ONLY valid one in the universe. This was offset by other professors who provided me with an "A" grade if I brought some original, individual insight into an essay.

How many interpretations have there been of James Joyce's "Ulysses"? How many more interpretations have their been of the bible? Today, how many denominations of Christianity exist?

Failure Factor

All forms of writing incorporate what I would term a "failure factor." The author of a written piece may have had something very specific in mind to communicate, yet a number of readers will derive other meanings or simply comprehend nothing at all. This "failure factor" applies to the highest forms of literature down to the humble Hub.

Communication between human beings is difficult, at best. Communication between husbands and wives often result in erroneous feelings -- even though each partner feels as if he/she knows the other like the back of their hand. This idea of "knowing" is assumed but misplaced.

Verbal communication beats any form of written material. The speaker's emotion, his/her inflections, tone of voice, volume, etc., all convey messages that are unfortunately absent in written subject matter. Hence, written material is very often misinterpreted.

The most obvious example of miscommunication is email (and texting). The writer intends one line of thought, but the reader may select a few chosen phrases to interpret the email in an incorrect fashion. This has happened to me dozens of times. Sometimes I have been astonished at the communication gap. When the misinterpretation is severe, I pick up the phone and call the individual who has misconstrued my written message.

In our hectic, work-a-day world, it is extremely easy to send an email that flowed out of the top of one's head. People are often pressured with deadlines, travel arrangements and other distractions. Even if a writer checks his/her own work, they may not zero in on key words or phrases that the receiver of the message will jump upon and come to various, unintended conclusions. Generally, it seems that people prefer to use email than having a verbal conversation. On the plus side, email can be faster, exactly on point, and leaves a record of having contacted so and so about this or that. On the negative side, email is far less personal and opens up those great big possibilities for being misunderstood.

In Internet forums/blogs, writers feel absolutely free to spew their unrestrained thoughts intermixed with abundant emotion(s). Reactions to the most mundane and benign articles can create a storm of obviously unhappy respondents. The article may be about a cooking recipe or installing a kitchen sink -- it doesn't matter. The article will still agitate someone to a sufficient degree that they will respond in a vehement manner. The more controversial the subject, the more varied the responses -- usually trending toward the negative.

As hub writers we are not immune from the "failure factor." Respondents may offer praise or condemnation.

I have been writing in this venue for about six weeks, and I'm already recognizing the familiar failure factor at work. If one prides himself/herself as a good communicator, reader responses can be enlightening or depressing.

Somehow, someway, everyone should be made aware of the failure factor whether writing for the NY Times or for a local blog. The limitations of the written word are insoluble. There's simply no getting away from it. Few individuals have the luxury of being able to pass their writing on to an editor.

Judging by the number of typos and more gross errors in Internet news postings, it appears that even highly placed journalists no longer have an editor on board. Minus the review of a second, impartial mind, we are left on our own. With that comes the myriad responses -- some positive -- some not. The way I deal with it is by thinking back to my college professors. Some of them were shuttered from accepting any new ideas -- and certainly any essays that breached new ground. Others were delighted at reading a new interpretation, a new vision.

The key is to leave your emotions (as a writer) in a basket somewhere. We have no choice but to deflect unwarranted or hyperbolic criticism.

As for myself I have no interest in earning any kind of money from my writing. I spend zero amount of time tailoring my hubs for a large audience or perfecting them for advertisers. I'm not in this for the money. I simply enjoy the process of writing, of attempting to communicate my thoughts through words. Thus far, my feedback on HubPages has been mostly positive. There are those who disagree with my viewpoint, and I anticipate this.

The happy thing is that I haven't encountered any overly emotional types. To the contrary, everyone who has bothered to leave a comment has been very polite -- maybe because they are fellow hub writers (I don't know). But, I enjoy the cordiality, the civility, and the venue has opened up a whole different class of writers for me. I am generally surprised and pleased by the quality of the hubs I've read to date. Many thanks to those who have chosen to follow my hubs and offer encouragement.

A little bit of encouragement goes a long, long way.


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    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Yes, it does, and you will receive a great deal of encouragement from this community of writers. If some make money here, good for them. That's not what I'm here for either, which is a good thing because I'm not making any so far.

      Welcome and looking forward to more of your work.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Very interesting commentary on writing and words and how easily we can misunderstand and be misunderstood. The effort to set emotions aside is important, but harder for some of us to accomplish than others.

      I wholeheartedly approve (not that you need my approval) and am glad to meet someone who is not spending any time or effort "tailoring" his hubs in order to generate that elusive income. How wonderful to write for the joy and pleasure of writing. Pleased to meet you. :) SHARING

    • profile image

      Dona 5 years ago

      This is a very lucid comment on the intrinsic meaning of words and their failure to communicate exactly. As a translator, I find it inevitable that the search for the "right" word falls short every time. We must, however, keep trying.

    • Social-eyes profile image

      Social-eyes 5 years ago

      Good ploy (chuckle).Never thought it meant fatality but energy depletion. The "failure actor" is inevitable yet surprises.

      Thanks for sharing.