The Language of Blogging: Part 2

Kay / 9th July 2013 / Comment

Last week, I talked about how register and filler (i.e. level of formality and extraneous speech) affect the viability of your blog. The Language of Blogging: Part 2 takes a look at some other linguistic concepts to keep in mind while you’re blogging.

The Linguistics of Blogging

Code-switching: Bilingual bloggers, take note: code-switching, i.e. alternating between languages, can throw your readers for a loop if it’s not clarified. This seems simple enough, but I’ve seen many bloggers make this mistake, particularly when interspersing a non-English blog entry with English words. Don’t assume that your readers share your foreign language knowledge! Any terms or phrases you use that differ from the language of your blog and readership should be well explained.

Hypercorrection: This is somewhat related to register—hypercorrection is an attempt to avoid using “non-standard” speech through a mistaken correction. For example, consider the phrase “if you have any concerns, please contact me or Joe.” A common hypercorrection would be “if you have any concerns, please contact Joe or myself,” as “myself” sounds ‘fancier’ than me—however, this substitution is ill-advised since it’s actually incorrect (myself being a reflexive pronoun and me being non-reflexive). While dipping into hypercorrection likely won’t alienate a sizeable number of readers, it prevents your voice from sounding genuine. How to avoid it? As hypercorrection demonstrates, your gut linguistic instincts are usually spot-on. When it comes to blogging success, authenticity reigns supreme, so don’t worry about making an honest mistake or two.

Normativism: This gets at the philosophical underpinnings behind my advice regarding register and hypercorrection. Normativism is the idea that there is a “right” way of speaking or writing, and that other linguistic variations of a language are somehow “wrong”. Certainly, there are some grammatical rules (such as the “myself/me” distinction I mentioned above) that form what is often recognized as “standard” speech, and deviating from these rules would be considered a “mistake” by your high school English teacher. So, while it’s not exactly right to say that there are no real rules when it comes to language, it’s worthwhile to be aware that these rules refer to current conventions of a certain dialect of English—not the language as a whole. If you like folksy dialects or prefer certain linguistic conventions that aren’t “standard”, don’t let a fear of being “incorrect” hold you back.

Has your appetite for linguistics been whetted? Take a look at The Economist’s phenomenal language blog, Johnson, which serves up offbeat linguistics tidbits with a side of dry British humor.

By Kay