Grumpy Sunday: blog bugbears

1. Sweeping assertions without benefit of evidence.

1a. Especially sweeping and inaccurate historical assertions that demonstrate total and utter ignorance of decades of well-established, careful research by large numbers of historians.

1b. Not to mention when a simple 5-minute Google search would have corrected the aforesaid sweeping assertions. (And I know because I went and did one!)

2. Bloggers who haven’t actually read anything by X but feel qualified to criticise* X based on something Y wrote about X.

2a. Especially when Y is a hack journalist and X is a respected and experienced specialist in whatever the subject is under discussion.

3. Bloggers who haven’t actually read anything by X but feel qualified to criticise* Y (who has read X) for what Y has written about X.

4. When a blogger writes a post about some large scale social or economic trend or pattern, and most of the ensuing comment thread consists of people agreeing or disagreeing with the blogger based purely on personal anecdotes.

5. People who use ‘that’ when they should use ‘who’ (as in: people that use ‘that’ when they should use ‘who’). For some reason, this has been driving me absolutely crazy lately.

No links to protect the not so innocent, but don’t tell me you haven’t encountered them. Anyone got any more to add? Get ’em off your chest! (Or if your guilty conscience has anything to confess…)

……….

*Perhaps I should note that I didn’t mean ‘criticise’ in the judicious academic sense. I meant it more in the sense of ‘vicious attack’.

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11 Responses to Grumpy Sunday: blog bugbears

  1. Milan says:

    Personal quizzes based on random music you happen to be listening to. If you’re that desperate for absolutely anything to post, you shouldn’t be blogging.

  2. Simon says:

    #5 is my top peeve at the moment.* I shout at the TV, sounding like a monkey: “WHOOOOOO”.

    * Apart from my laziness in finding external examiners. But self-loathing is normally exempt from this kind of list.

  3. Actually, #3 doesn’t bother me all that much; there’s a lot you can do with simple logic and general knowledge…. Sometimes wrong is obvious. #2 doesn’t bother me all that much either: so much of what we know is second-hand…. as long as we acknowledge that our understanding is indirect and subject to correction by those who know better (which qualification was probably absent from the blogger to whom you haven’t linked, though we’re all very curious), I don’t see how this is all that much different from what we do when we read book reviews…..

  4. Alun says:

    Add 6: A cavalier attitude to puncuation, which means writing the words – then throwing a handful of random punctation at it (to see what sticks)* & I feel victimised; what have I done to offend you today?!?!!? Banning [1] would wipe out 90% of my blog entries. :)

    *This is close to how I was taught to use punctuation.

  5. Sharon says:

    Jonathan: I could rephrase #2 a bit: I get annoyed by blogger opinions based on reading short and over-simplified or downright distorted newspaper articles about publications (or speeches, lectures, etc) that are easily available online and wouldn’t take that much longer to read. I really don’t have a single example in mind. On #3 a particularly fine example (without naming names) was a post I read some time ago about a book review: the blogger admitted to not having read the book, and clearly knew bugger all about the subject, but didn’t let any of that get in the way of complaining about the reviewer’s criticisms of it because they ran into the blogger’s prejudices. (I had read the book and I thought the reviewer’s comments were pretty fair.) Really, #1-3 are all pretty closely related. It’s like encounters with that particularly annoying kind of first-year undergraduate who never reads anything and rarely exercises their critical faculties in any noticeable way but certainly isn’t going to let that get in the way of continuously sharing their fatuous and misinformed opinions.

    Alun: you aren’t one of the guilty ones in my opinion. Good point about punctuation. Although I have been working on being more relaxed about that (and about spelling mistakes and even – GULP – misplaced apostrophes) in blog posts. Bloggers don’t have proofreaders, and these things don’t come naturally to everyone.

  6. Sharon says:

    Oh yeah, I knew I forgot one: misrepresentation by selective quoting.

  7. Sharon: Don’t get me wrong; I’d probably find the same posts annoying for about the same reasons. It’s the sweeping generalizations….

    I’ll add one to the list: linking to or quoting something and then claiming to not be in any way responsible for the content thereof, because they were “just passing something along” or “just trying to start a discussion”….

  8. km says:

    I think #5 is acceptable depending on your dialect. Of course, whether one should write in dialect or Standard American English (or British, as have you) doesn’t seem to be reflected on much.

    Personally, I like using “people what use,” but I wouldn’t do that in a professional context. Except lecturing in front of students, and then for emphasis. (Or answering questions after a talk, depending on the room.) Because there’s a linguistic spectrum, and appropriate use of register and formality, no matter what my dialect.

    But, from a linguistic standpoint, “that” seems rather well established and widespread as a variation on standard prescriptive grammar, although I don’t have any studies on relativizers offhand to cite for you.

  9. Simon says:

    Punctuation is part of the written code that needs to be learned. By everybody. There’s no point getting upset about bad punctuation, except when it comes from people who should (or claim to) know better – like that Lynne Truss person.

    Neither do misspellings usually annoy me, because ignorance is usually correctable.

    Misrepresentation by selective quotation, however… That’s indicative of an irredeemably dishonest person. Perchance the firing squad would assuage my disgust. But only just.

  10. Rob says:

    Thinking about it, it occurs to me that none of these are unique to blogs, are they?

  11. Because I found it so often in American English that I was editing, I ran the “that for who” usage past a list of copy-editors. Only one out of about a dozen who responded said they might be prepared to leave the “that” in very informal contexts. All the others said: “No way!”

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