Make your writing valuable

I subscribe to a whole lot of blogs*. Mostly tech, some lifestyle, and a few that are hard to smush into one category, like Medium. And there is a trend happening with all of them: A good chunk of the articles published are crap.

OK, yes, that’s a mean opening paragraph, and I’ll admit that it’s a little over-stated for the sake of a sensational opener. There are a ton of good pieces published on these websites as well, pieces that keep me coming back for more.

But there is a growing collection of articles that are written, I imagine, with the author thinking along these lines:

“I need to get published. It’ll be good for my career and my online reputation.”
“I need a piece with a punchy title.”
“How about: ‘Topic name here: Why you’re doing it wrong.’”
“Ok perfect, now I just need to write some content to back up my controversial title.”

And then I end being bombarded by articles telling me that I’m doing everything wrong, from my morning routine to how I organize my CSS. And I can’t help but think that these authors don’t really care or even know particularly well what it is they’re talking about. They’re just filling a page because they want to get published.

I’m sure this is not always the case and there are some fabulously written “Why you’re doing it wrong” articles out there that will blow my mind and change the way I think. But unfortunately, this title,along with may other so-called eye catching openers, have become so overused that I see them as a red flag for potential filler-content.

What counts as filler-content to me? Opinion pieces that try really hard to impress you but seem transparent, like not even the author really believes what (s)he’s saying. Articles that re-iterate over the same old, broken material that has been covered a thousand times before. Long-winded personal pieces that over-use the English language, stretching out ridiculous metaphors for miles and miles and finally end, leaving you wondering where the punchline was.

Let me be the first to admit that I am guilty of this too. I’ll bet that lots of people have written a stinker and been initially proud of it, only to look back later and cringe. It’s bound to happen. So I’m not going to run after anyone in my pajamas, wielding a flaming pitchfork whenever I read an article that fits my criteria for ‘crap’. But I think we should all at least be aware. Don’t publish a half-assed article on purpose. If you’re writing for something other than a personal blog (Personal blogs are exempt from judgement. Write all the crap you like!), ask yourself: Does this piece add value? Does it make the reader think, laugh, or learn? What will people gain from reading this?

I like the idea of a world filled with valuable content written by people with amazing insight and ideas to share.

*Is there another word for this? I don’t really think of Medium as a blog. News Aggregator? That just seems long winded.