Western Style Writing vs. Eastern Style Writing

I have never been an english major, nor do I claim to be an expert in the topic of good, solid writing form. However, I’ve had some observations on how posts are written. On one side, most people will say, “I don’t really care if my posts conform to a certain writing style.” That’s perfectly okay. I’d argue that writing styles, though, have more impact on an audience when the psychology or philosophy of the style is considered.

From my perspective, there is a western and an eastern-style writing system. I think most literature experts would agree with this and heck, they may even teach this in school. I don’t know. I’ve personally used both styles and will give some examples.

Western Style Writing

A Western style post typically has the thesis up front. What does the writer want to say. Grab the audience right from the start. The, “You had me at hello” sentiment.

In Western style writing, readers don’t want to sit around and wait for the punchline. We want to know right now what your point is. It is from this psychology that the art of the headline comes in. Brian Clark over at Copyblogger covers this kind of stuff in great depth and, sometimes, ad nauseum. In Journalism, the headline may be the most important part of an article and realistically, the search engines are setup with this assumption.

In my post the other day entitled Indeti.ca and the Art of the Launch, I conveyed a western lit style. My subject line was strong in relating the content of the post. My thesis is in the very first paragraph:

Ask any startup. The most difficult decision leading up to a public release is when and what? Some might argue that getting funding is the most difficult but a good startup avoids funding until later, if at all. Others might argue that the difficult part is getting the right mix of people and hitting milestones. That also is important, but not as important as the when and how.

See that? Startups and launch. The most important part is the when and how.

This statement clearly defines the scope of the rest of the article. As I progress through the article, I build on that thesis by providing supporting evidence (other companies who are just starting and had to deal with the same issues) and then solidly land a right hook on the company in question by bringing the point home. At the end of it all, I bring it all home in the larger context of the thesis.

Eastern Style Writing

The eastern style of writing is all about Zen. It’s very Buddhist in that sense. It understands that good things come to those who wait and that, in general, an article is an entire piece instead of a logical, and linear progression. An article written in an eastern style generally has the thesis statement in the middle of the piece. Everything, like the the planets in the solar system, revolves as a whole around it.

Take my recent essay for the Fourth of July. It is very much an Eastern Lit piece.

The thesis of the essay does not arrive until halfway through the article:

Patriotism is a love of country. Patriotism is not an act demonstrating a love of country. Patriotism is respect and honor. Patriotism is not a shallow public display of affection. Patriotism is the ability to stand back and say, “œWow, I’m blessed to be an American”. Patriotism is not “œAmerica and no one else.” Patriotism is recognizing that, at the end of the day, despite disagreement we can all stand shoulder to shoulder in defense of the freedom to disagree.

Leading up to this thesis statement was a story and supporting details: Katherine Lee Bates, Pikes Peak, America the Beautiful. The end wraps up the whole idea. Patriotism as demonstrated by politicians, quotes from other bloggers, etc.

Even the headline wasn’t overly compelling: America the Beautiful. What does that headline convey about the article? Not a whole lot, if I’m honest. (For what it’s worth, you probably should use more descriptive headlines simply because search engines are designed with the assumption that the headline will be very important to the rest of the content.)

It’s okay to use neither of these writing style or both, as I do. In my mind, the key is understanding the demographics of your audience and recognizing that how they think should reflect how you write. If your audience is largely a North American audience, you probably will be better off with a Western writing style unless you want to challenge them outside of their norms. For me, I find it more natural to write in an eastern style. It’s a more satisfying thought and writing process as it forces me to think long before I actually sit down to write.

How do you write?

Ebb and Flow; Blogging During a Conference; Bits and Pieces

During conferences, I think it makes the most sense to blog in a format that Jason Calacanis made “special”. Stream of consciousness blogging. In other words, during conferences, I don’t have the time to fully develop thoughts like I would normally do to post usual content here. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot going through my head. In fact, it’s at times like this that my mind is on overdrive thinking about everything and fully baking none of it. Introducing stream of consciousness blogging where one entry might have three or four varying topics. I probably only do this once a day if that much. Here goes.

Writing Well

It’s been alarming to me recently how many blogs I’ve been visiting, in the DC area and elsewhere, which seem to be completely disjointed in terms of thought process. They are written with poor grammar, horrendous typos, etc. Though I’m known for bad typos when “ad hoccing” my writing – and known for equally bad grammar at some times – I really do like to see well thought out writing. If it only took you two minutes to write a post, it’s probably noticeable. Copy and paste? Clean up your formatting. Close your HTML tags. Do what you have to to dress the article up. It’s your professional image on the line. For more copywriting tips, visit my colleague and friend, Brian Clark for more information overload on writing good copy than you could ever dream of.

Austin, SXSW

This is my second year. Word to the virgins (erm, SXSW virgins), bring a second pair of comfortable shoes and a few extra changes of clothes. Last year we had monsoon like conditions and it soaked my only pair of shoes. Be prepared. There’s lots of walking. In a similar vein, don’t frustrate yourself by thinking you can even attempt to go to every cool party. Go to what you can. RSVP for everything (/me ducks from the party organizers) and then only go to what you can. Don’t kill yourself, you’ll regret it at the end of the week and feel like a failure. Just have fun. As JCal says, the best networking happens somewhere after 11pm over the most expensive Scotch around – or something.

If Simon uses an Adjective Beginning with G, you should Listen

Someone mentioned jokingly that there should be a drinking game where you take a shot every time American Idol judge Simon Cowell uses an adjective beginning with G – Ghastly, Grotesque, etc. Yes, yes, I’m making an Idol reference. Sue me. When someone criticizes your company, your business model, your methods – take what you can and leave the rest. Take the criticism and learn from it. If they are just looking to deep six your company, they are probably finding another way to do it. No need to be the super hero and pretend you’ve got it all figured out. Nobody does. Take the criticism and improve with it.

I’m out. Plane’s about to board.