Tuesday, July 10, 2018

FYI: Blog = Essay

This post started as a book review but it took an interesting turn when I realized the books I am reviewing were 20 and 30 years old. I was comparing/contrast writing then and now when I realized that...

...the Internet has disrupted writing by giving respectability to essays. The 'Net has changed the way essays are published - and that essays are even available to the public at large.

Essays are Blogs!

Essays1, in my youth, were dreaded homework writing assignments. The audience for an essay was easy to define: the teacher. After all, who else would be interested in reading a 1-4 page paper, and how would a stranger even find it, anyway? America, and the world, has millions of unpublished essays. I venture to say that most were not voluntarily written.

As students entered the work force, these essays were produced under a new name, "white paper2." That's a whole new genre, but white papers require the same writing skills and focused, critical thinking. The audience was larger, and there was a profit motive involved.

The Internet was blossoming in the 1990's, and web pages were all the rage. The world screamed for content; new content; relevant content, current content, changing content. In a single word: content. By 1999, the Internet had given us a new word. "Blog3," a contraction of 'web log.'

Perspectives have changed:

While today's youth and most adults still have zero interest in writing essays, they embrace blogs and everything about them! (Notice: you're reading a short one.)

For many, it's a form of self-expression; somewhere to expand on their FaceBook posts and invite friends to  visit, read, and comment. For some, blogging has become profitable. And, for a very few, it's become very very profitable!4

If you read the list of articles returned when you enter "parts of an essay" into Google.com you'll realize how essays form the basis for a good blog!

I wonder if today's bloggers, especially the younger ones, realize they are continuing this centuries-old concept...

1 Dictionary.com defines an essay as "a short literary composition on a particular theme or subject, usually in prose and generally analytic, speculative, or interpretative" while Miriam-Webster calls it "an analytic or interpretative literary composition usually dealing with its subject from a limited or personal point of view."

2 A white paper, according to Wikipedia, is "an authoritative report or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body's philosophy on the matter. It is meant to help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision."

3 Techtarget.com expands the definition of a blog to "is a Web site that consists of a series of entries arranged in reverse chronological order, often updated on frequently with new information about particular topics. The information can be written by the site owner, gleaned from other Web sites or other sources, or contributed by users."

4 (Yes, I'd like to share that, but not sure how. For now, for me, it's a form of self-expression. I just realized my engineering background is surfacing because I'm speaking in footnotes and parenthesizes. All that's missing is a bulleted list or two!)

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