Writing Communities — Unique, Yet Strangely Similar

One writing community I consistently – and hopefully continue to — associate with is the scientific writing community. Though I have not published any articles, I have written extensively in this community and find that it many times influences the way I write elsewhere. Interestingly, it seems that writing in this community (at least in scientific journals) is a science itself. There is a guiding structure, a need to be concise and clear, and a need to be truthful — any fiction here will terminate you. Any writing conforming to these three mantras is good writing, and anything diverging is bad writing. Little room is left for creativity. As a scientific writer, I aim to bring a little bit of my personality to my writing. Often, this is inserted into the introduction and conclusion of papers, and is inappropriate elsewhere.

Another writing community I belong to (though this may be a stretch) is the FaceBook-article commenting community. By this, I mean that I often comment on the articles that the New York Times, New Yorker, Atlantic, etc. post to FaceBook. Writing here is fun. You have free reign to say and do as you please because no one knows you (unless your FaceBook profile is not set to “private”). This allows for profanity, arguing, whatever. However, there are methods to establishing yourself as a superior: don’t use profanity, exhibit perfect grammar and spelling, and be very concise and very clear. Often, just making a small point using these three methods will allow for an effective comment. Therefore, creativity is everything!

While I initially chose these two communities because they appear to be (almost hilariously) stark contrasts of one another, I was quite surprised to see the two forms of writing converging as I typed out this blog post. Both forms emphasize clarity, conciseness, and honesty. Effective science writing could (if you keep it short) make for effective FaceBook-article commenting.

But differences between the two communities begin to arise when you consider that this is not a two-way relationship: Effective FaceBook-article commenting would not (in most conditions) make for effective science writing. Perhaps it has to do with the notion of credibility. In science writing, you need to be credible to be effective. In FaceBook-article commenting, anyone can be effective. Let me know what you think.

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