Showing posts with label Writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Writing. Show all posts

Monday, January 14, 2019

Editing and Ethics

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

In the publishing world, nonfiction writers are expected to write accurately and document their sources. Sometimes new information is obtained or corrections need to be made. Newspapers and magazines issue corrections and retractions. In the worst case, books are recalled. Ever notice that there isn't always an explanation for a new or revised edition for a book? I reckon it's up to reviewers to find out where things are changed if the author or publisher doesn't explain things.


Making changes in weblogs can seem unethical. What are the rules?

When it comes to electronic media, it the rules seem to be different. If bloggers make changes, we can be found out. (I remember one tinhorn atheist who called me a coward for not putting my name on my site, and I told him that it was indeed there. He checked the link on the internet archive to see if I was acting like an atheist and lying about it.) Some people are criticized for making changes, even minor ones like wording and typos. Sometimes I edit within an hour or two after the thing is published without feeling guilty. When do we need to add notations?

There doesn't seem to be a rule book on this that I can find. Although I wasn't worrying on this overmuch, I did commence to pondering on it off and on. Somebody told me that it's my weblog so I can do what I want. That didn't quite strike me as ethical — at least, not when it comes to science and theology. On the other hand, things can be cluttered with numerous notations of edits.

I decided that minor corrections, including adding or deleting links, do not need notations. Things that affect the content of the piece should have some kind of note. People who read my articles and posts have probably seen those, even a note at the beginning that let the readers know that something was revised. Changing important things that are pertinent to the content without some kind of note strikes me as rather unethical. 

So that's where I stand on this. Important changes require an editing note, but the minor stuff, not so much. This cuts down on the clutter and keeps editing in balance. Sound like a good plan?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Make Writing Interesting

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Way back yonder, in days of old when nights were cold, I wanted to be a science fiction writer, and took courses on writing. These included college nonfiction writing, and a required course on speechifying (even in 1980, I was speaking out against falsehoods in evolution). One simple thing that stuck with me was to write as if your audience was about 13 years old. (I think one of the creationist sites I read has a general style guide, when not doing hardcore science, to write as if the readers were precocious teenagers.) This seemed like a good approach when attempting to inform people. Then I'd go to my next class and wade through a textbook that was "written at a college sophomore level". Seemed like a contradiction to me.

Unfortunately, the classes on writing do not work in this medium. Online articles have different criteria because people have not only demands on their time, but often have short attention spans. Part of the problem with short attention spans is social media. You'll see what I mean if you study on that.

Many things that I have read, and still read, are desert-sand dry and tedious. Others are cute and funny, but become distracting, and it's easy to miss the point of what the author is trying to communicate. One of the watchwords for my life has been balance, and that applies here, too. My regular readers have probably figured out that I don't want to be boring, but still get important points across. Adding "color" to articles is a good thing. I'll put in the cowboy lingo to break things up and keep my online persona going, but have to taper back so I don't defeat my own purpose and get distracting. At times, I have to use wording that is appropriate for the subject, assuming that those who are reading the post or article are familiar with the necessary expensive words. 

Sometimes, I get put off by sesquipedalian loquaciousness, where I get the feeling that the writer is not so much interested in communicating as in showing off his or her extensive vocabulary. At the other extreme is when someone writes so simplistically, it's rather insulting, and you may feel that the writer is talking down to you.

Much of the time, writing style depends on the audience. Three creation science examples: the Journal of Creation is not going to have cute terminology (see "What life is"), nor is "Answers Research Journal" (see "Do Varves, Tree-Rings, and Radiocarbon Measurements Prove an Old Earth?"), and don't expect to see it in the Creation Research Society Quarterly Journal (see "The Extraterrestrial Search for the Origin of Homochirality"). Authors may put some personality in their articles, but the material is primarily written for scientists, or those with strong science backgrounds. I certainly don't understand much of that material. Major creation science organizations publish material on the layman's level, fortunately, and even include some clever wording that adds color.

There are different approaches to writing material, depending on the audiences. Attempting to reach a balance between simplistic and complicated is important.
Image credit: Morguefile / pippalou
Rent-a-Friend-2000, "a gentleman and a scholar at a very reasonable hourly rate" (Bryan Melugin) writes over at "A Bit of Orange", and I first became of his work because of his videos. I'm partway through a series on "Defining Evolution", and I'm quite taken with both the style and content. There is a storyline of sorts: four friends meet on Thursday nights after work for nachos and conversation. (One small quibble of mine, Mr. Melugin named a seafaring character "Bluebeard", but the Bluebeard legend is about a non-nautical serial killer that may or may not have been real.) The premise is developed through the four-way conversation of the characters. His writing includes humor, side notes, incidental activities, character attitudes, and more. I believe the creation-evolution discussion is effectively and entertainingly presented.

The RaF2K material reminded me of something at the other extreme of using dialogue and a storyline to communicate a concept. It was a novel I read in the 1980s, Genesis by W.A. Harbison. That bad boy was over 600 pages, and I found it to have very little action. Instead, it used dialogue to establish the premise that UFOs are not extraterrestrial at all, but the results of man-made secret projects. There was so much of this dialogue, I felt cheated. (Also, there was also an excessively detailed sex scene in the book that did not advance the storyline as far as I can recollect. If sex between that man and woman was important to the story, there was no need for the prurient details.) Melugin had his communicative dialogue in balance, Harbison did not.

So what's the point? Different audiences react to different writing styles. Many of us prefer to use a lighter approach, especially when trying to have others understand ideas that may be new to them. In my case, I hope readers will follow the links to the featured articles and explore on those sites for more in-depth material if they want it. In the meantime, I'll write in a manner that I hope people can understand, keeping a balance between "talking down" and using excessively complicated language. Oh, and I have to keep from letting my efforts at adding "color" distract the readers.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Saying What I Believe

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Once again, I was inspired to write an article by listening to a podcast. A recent episode by Matt Walsh began with some introductory remarks that fit what I'm doing. I disremember if he used these words, but essentially, he's not going to carry water for the Republican party; if someone deserves criticism, he'll give it to them. Walsh likes to say what he thinks and believes, and believes that's the right way to go.


A personal glimpse at what happens in my writing and screening processes. The main point here is that I say what I believe, and don't do creation science for its own sake.
Image credit: Morguefile / Irish_Eyes
Although I'm a cowboy at heart and tend to take quick action when I feel it's necessary, I want to say what I believe; I want to think I'm doing that very thing. My calling is biblical creation science, but I'm not carrying water for all creation science ministries, individuals involved, or each article. There are some cults out there that claim to be biblical creationists, as well as greenhorns, and even folks that are just plain nuts, so there's no reason for me to support everything.

Most of what I share on The Question Evolution Project is something I've read, watched, or heard. Sure, I occasionally share something sight unseen because I think it needs to be posted quickly, but most of those come from sources that I trust. Even so, I usually check it out if I didn't beforehand.

Over at my main site, Evolutionary Truth by Piltdown Superman, I try much harder to read or hear the articles that I'm featuring.

"How do you listen to articles, Cowboy Bob?"

Glad you asked. I send most of the articles I come into contact with to my e-book reader using a service that converts and formats them. Since I listen to many podcasts, I add articles to the list. Occasionally, I use an online service or Balabolka freeware that converts text to speech (TTS) and produces MP3s. (Dr. James White listens to converted books this way on his long bicycle rides.) Some of the more difficult articles, I listen to more than once, and even supplement the hearing with reading.

So anyway, my usual format at that site is Introduction/Excerpt/Link to read the rest of the article I'm featuring. Often, I supplement the item with my own thoughts, additional material, links, videos, and so on. But I don't want to give away too much information in my introductions. Sometimes, I get criticized for not backing up something I said in an introduction. Well, if'n y'all bothered to follow the link, you'd see what's going on.

Occasionally, I'll make a mistake, whether in my introduction sections or in my own articles. When I catch it, I try to fix it. (Some sidewinders will bite if I correct something, or complain if I did not correct something.) Although it's my Weblog or social media Page and I can do what I want, if something is changed or corrected after it's been out for a period of time, I think it's good to indicate that it's been edited. If it posted within a few minutes or hours, not so much. Longer periods of time, yes. Important content edits, definitely. F'rinstance, a post on human-chimpanzee genome similarities needed a big change, so I made one. I'll admit to tweaking wording when I realize I wrote something poorly, but feel no need to indicate editing.

Ever have those times that you have an inspiration and think it's going to be something great, and you lose it? I try to scratch out notes when I get an idea at the workplace, but even then, I've looked at them and drawn a blank; what in the world was I writing then? Here's an irony: I've never been able to stand South Park, don't think I've seen an entire episode, but I use "memes" from there on occasion. Like the one about the deposited money, "...aaand it's gone".



Kind of went off track and gave some "behind the scenes" material, didn't I? Still, it's about writing what I believe and what goes on in my writing processes.

People I respect and admire have written material that I dislike, have dealt with before, bring nothing new, or even disagree with. I'm not doing creation science for its own sake, and I won't turn the Pages at Facebook or Google Plus into what I call "link mills". Those guys call themselves "ministries", but they plaster any old thing up there, often quite a bit of stuff.

This brings us back to the beginning: I'll say what I believe. People will disagree, and I'll foul up on occasion or not rite goodly, but I'm striving to be intellectually honest. My purposes are to glorify God, to be obedient to his calling, and to edify the saints. And have a bit of fun now and then. Can't rightly do any of those things if I'm not presenting material that I think is false, now, can I? Not hardly!