There was one other thing that was a bit distasteful about those posts on how you can further your career by being a technical writer, and it had to do with how they formatted their writing.
Many of them were not afraid to include a lot of emphasis. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot. As it whole phrases or even entire sentences. They did it quite often. Sometimes in bold. Actually, quite often in bold. And once or twice, they even used both bold and italics.
This was mixed in with prose that included a lot of tweets, liberal use of emojis 🧑💻, and block quotes as call-outs to something that was just said a few sentences ago.
Because block quotes stand out from the body text, and are easy to do in Markdown. 🔥
I see a lot of this writing in tech newsletters or blog aggregators, and I’m always a little suspicious of them. I doubt it’s mealy to highlight a point, like a typical Coding Horror blog post. I think the motivation for all this emphasis is different. They could be just trying to make the article look fun and approachable, or trying to make it stand out. Does it work though? I suspect it’s harder to stand out if every other post on the site looks like this. You’re more likely to stand out if you don’t include any formatting or emoji at all.
I wouldn’t be to fazed by this if was a personal blog and that was just the author’s style. But these posts are trying to inform or persuade, and it all feels a little like the hustle equivalent to writing — “hustle writing” if you like — as if it’s trying to get me jazzed on a subject that I totally should be on board for. But if the content is good enough, or your argument compelling enough, does it need all this embellishment?
Maybe I’m just a cynic — when all the web3 stuff was blowing up this time last year, I saw many a Substack newsletter touting NFTs or d-apps (remember those?) written in this style. Or it could be that I just don’t like fun, and that I’m just a stuffy old man. And yeah, there might be something to that. I took a look at my archives this morning and many of my older posts were… well, I wouldn’t say “bad”, but they were pretty dry and boring. So it might simply be that my personality just doesn’t jell with this style of writing.
Even so, I wish there was less of this.