The other day, I was at a party and talking to someone who wrote for a technical magazine. Personally, I'm a generalist; unlike him, I don't have one particular area of expertise. So that means, as a freelance copywriter, I've written about everything from social housing to finance, from industrial glass to chicken seasoning, from NHS fundraising to annual reports. And besides this, of course, I've been a blogger for Creativepool since the inception of its Magazine.
So we were talking about writing in general and he suggested that blogging was more challenging than "normal" writing, because there are no rules. Does he have a point?
Let's leave aside the fact that companies of all types do run blogs these days that do (or should) still conform to the house tone of voice or style on at least some level, even if it's slightly more relaxed. It is perhaps true that bloggers have a distinct advantage over mainstream print journalists or columnists, because, rightly or wrongly, the same rules don't seem to apply in the blogosphere as they do in formal print. Well, they do in some ways, of course; I couldn't just post a blog in the Creativepool Magazine that is libellous, or is racially, culturally or sexually offensive (to name but a few categories) or that's going to lay me or Creativepool open to litigation. But realistically, the rules are a bit more relaxed.
Some of my friends have commented that I come across as quite angry in some of my blog posts, not quite realising that it is affected to some degree.
The reality and the explanation is this: when I applied for this role as a blogger for Creativepool, the MD liked how I had written an edgy, different and yes, quite angry application letter. On some level, I probably fancy myself as a bit of a Jeremy Clarkson or Charlie Brooker of the blogosphere, so it allows me to adopt a persona which is, in fact, very much at variance with my “real life” character.
You might not believe it, but I am actually a terribly nice chap. The sort of person whom parents of friends will always say “oh, your friend Ashley is lovely!” when I've been round for tea and cake – and then helped to clear the table afterwards (having taken off my shoes at the door when I first arrive). I'm also the sort of person who will hand in a wallet at the police station with every last coin still inside, or will post a dropped mobile phone back to the owner by recorded delivery.
But we all have different sides of our character, of course, so my outlet for being a bit grumpy (oh, OK, angry! Grrrr! Stop splitting hairs, dammit!) is the blogosphere. Libel and blatant diversity-rule contraventions aside, the virtual world is my virtual blogging oyster.
So, as I told my fellow party-goer, them's the rules. I agree – not exactly a definitive guide. But as I say, what with this being the internet, I can publish pretty much anything within reason and call it a guide. “How to hammer a nail into a wall: hold nail in one hand; hold hammer in t'other hand; move hammer towards nail with smooth, swift motion, ideally avoiding thumb and forefinger of nail-holding hand.” There you go – I'm now a DIY expert; check back next week for more tips.