Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Writing badly

I have noticed that sometimes the things I say in my blog get misinterpreted.  Lots of times in the comments people say things that make it clear that my point didn't get across properly; much of the time this is due to me writing poorly, sometimes it is due to the readers misreading and sometimes it is because readers disagree very emotionally with a point I make and want to let me have it.  I can't do much about most of that since I always try to write well (sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much) so saying 'just write better' isn't really a very helpful note.  There is one particular kind of confusion that regularly comes up that I hope I can alleviate by some combination of being more clear and talking about it where my readers can see it:  The confusion comes from the difference between things I think and things I feel.

When I make a post about economics or religion it is usually a post where I talk about facts and things I think about those facts.  I generally have the expectation that the things I say can be empirically verified and that what I am saying can be literally supported as truth.  I have been wrong before (and will be again) but mostly I get it right.  The posts where I talk about things I feel are often parenting ones though they can be other things; I usually am just speaking about what I experience and how I try to deal with it.  I rarely try to tell everyone that I am making perfect decisions but rather just try to use the blog to let people know what I am thinking and how things are going.  Hopefully I can be interesting and entertaining at the same time but that is a little more random and challenging.  The greatest conflicts usually come from people reading 'feeling' posts and replying as if they were 'thinking' posts.

"I carted Elli home over my shoulder kicking and screaming" or "I let Elli run down city streets by herself" are good examples of feeling posts.  I don't claim that what I did is the best course, by rather it is just how things went.  I certainly don't think that it is reasonable to determine that I was absolutely right or wrong since what happened is an experiment in action with parameters we can't properly measure, results that will be years coming and clearly unrepeatable.

"We should not be building windmills if we want to maximize our greenhouse gas emission reductions per dollar spent" is a thinking type statement.  We can argue about it, quote sources, do math and in theory come to a consensus.  Of course it is difficult and challenging to really be quite certain on things as complicated as this but nonetheless I feel confident that my statement is correct and even if it isn't that we can debate it in some reasonable fashion.

I think I make everything harder simply because I mix the two kinds of posts.  I have lots of things to say and very strong beliefs on a lot of topics so many of my posts are going to be lambasting one group or another with utter certainty in the correctness of the criticism.  When you combine that with posts where I just say things about how I feel and what happened it is easy to see why people would think that they were being criticized or that I am telling everyone how to do things when it isn't what I intend.  Unfortunately I don't have some kind of high tech gizmo to project exactly what I want into the minds of my audience but rather have to rely on words, and even more so on words that I don't have the luxury of endless time to prune, massage and perfect.  I guess that is just a limitation of the medium.

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