We couldn't help but read this piece in the NYT Magazine over the weekend in which writer Maud Newton points the finger at the late David Foster Wallace (Infinite Jest) and Dave Eggers for creating the loose conversational tone that came to be embraced, perhaps to a fault, by a generation of bloggers. We know that, um, at least a few commenters like to carp when we get too liberal with our pepperings of the word "um" in our writings, so if only for them, we salute Newton's observations and will try to be, like, less obnoxious in our blogger-y prose.
In the Internet era, Wallace’s moves have been adopted and further slackerized by a legion of opinion-mongers who not only lack his quick mind but seem not to have mastered the idea that to make an argument, you must, amid all the tap-dancing and hedging, actually lodge an argument...
I suppose it made sense, when blogging was new, that there was some confusion about voice. Was a blog more like writing or more like speech? Soon it became a contrived and shambling hybrid of the two. The “sort ofs” and “reallys” and “ums” and “you knows” that we use in conversation were codified as the central connectors in the blogger lexicon.
Newton's conclusion is that all this "umming" and casualness is just an effort by us writers to make you like us, and to not sound too certain in our arguments so as to leave room for disagreement. She concludes, "Qualifications are necessary sometimes... But the idea is to provoke and persuade, not to soothe. And the best way to make an argument is to make it, straightforwardly, honestly, passionately, without regard to whether people will like you afterward." Amen.