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Casual Tone is the Real Reward, P.S.: culture is safe, move along

The real pay-off for blogs and other “the amateur nut jobs are killing the canon”/”these kids today and their not liking the things I liked when I was their age” trend is a wider acceptance of using a casual tone in “communications.” By that I mean the written word, images, talks, and anywhere that someone is talking in whatever medium.


I hated my early english classes in public school. I never really learned grammar, how to spell (thank you red squiggly, I owe you a bottle of Kentucky’s fine), and I’ll be damned if I ever figured out crap about “form” beyond getting a passing grade.

All that junk was boring and seemed only slightly more useful than the math I loathed even more.

Starting with BBSes, I was forced to actually care about writing and, eventually, have fun with it. Once I got an internet connection, and later when the web hit, the style of writing I picked up from BBS “text files,” forums, ‘zines, USEnet, and eventually the web seemed light years evolved ahead of the “rhetoric” I was learning in school at the time.

It wasn’t until college, and more specifically, taking the otherwise boring sounding “Advanced Expository Writing” class that I figured out that writing in a more casual, damn the rules form was not only more satisfying for me, but managed to get good grades (again, really, just being a way of satisfying myself). I’m sure devouring all of Hemmingway and Hunter Thompson, along with a steady stream of hip-hop, helped as well.

Enough of me, right? You bet.


In the present, I increasingly hear people use what I would call a very casual tone in their communication. This doesn’t only surface in their rhetoric — format, word choice, form — but also in their casual attitude. People will more often say they don’t know something, or invite “the audience” to participate. They’ll be humble instead of expert.

In contrast, my rhetorical teaching always included a high dose of “90% of being right is acting like you’re right, being confident.”

To my mind, more so than the medium and format, this casualness in tone is one of the key, long-term benefits blogging has had in the spheres I stick my head in. Seeing that casual tone bleed back into “traditional”/main-stream media is great.

My Generation’s Rebellion Was High Art, Yours is Trash

Now, as always, there’s quite a stink up of how we’re destroying culture with this kind of thinking. I’m sure when I hit upper-middle age, I’ll think The Kids and Spring Chicken Technology are destroying the crystalline perfect world I’ve built up for myself over the year and deserve to have remain static as well. Hopefully I’ll be wise enough to realize that every generation always craps on the current revolution, thinking theirs was the final one, forgetting how much they got crapped on for “destroying culture.”

I mean, over history, has complaining about how Our Culture is going to the trash-heap ever really been right? Paint me, obviously, anti-conservative in thinking, but it seems to me that exactly the opposite is true: the more your culture stays the same, the worse off it is. (Of course, an American mutt like me would be happy with that thinking.)

To look at it another way, there’s a big difference in a high volume of crap being produced at any given time and the culture being destroyed and jacked with. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-canon or anti-That Dude is Really Good, Beyond “Amateur”: rather, I don’t think those notions are as stuffy and formal as the Culture Devolution Freak-outs make out.

While the larger quantity of pure content that newer mediums usually provide may be scary — having to sift through more crap to find “good stuff” — I don’t have much sympathy for the information overload freak-outs. Did people say things like, “holy crap, Guttie! Do you realize with this printing press there could be hundreds of books to choose from? Jam-bowls of pig jowls, man, you’re hittin’ my cod piece askew with book overload!”?

Blogs, YouTube, and “amateurs” aren’t going to harm The Culture anymore than the moving picture destroyed photography or books.

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Categories: Ideas, Social Software.

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One Response

  1. One person's casual is another's slang. — M. Lunt (2007)

    Casual as a "let's be open-minded" mantra is awesome. Casual (or a lack thereof) as a "that's my style" doesn't necessarily mean freakout city.