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June 1, 2006

We get email — from:


Just in yesterday at 4:14:52 p.m., it follows.

Not one word has been omitted.

    From: Mike Harney
    Subject: Substance and style
    To: Joseph Stirt

    I hesitate to mention this since I don't even know you, but I want to say it because I enjoy the blog and wish to keep reading it.

    I fear I may not be able to much longer.

    You see, the distinctive habit you have of making every sentence its own paragraph is somewhat grating, especially when it comes to pasted-in stories from other web sources.

    Okay, I'll admit it.

    It's actually gone all the way to annoying.

    To me, anyway.

    Maybe to some others as well.

    In fact, in a fashion similar to what happens when I see spelling errors in other corners of the web, the odd paragraphing -- or, shall we say, non-paragraphing since that's what it is -- almost jumps off the screen, twists my brain a little bit, and squeezes my eyeballs.


    Is the point that you don't like the original paragraphing in any story you read and you have to change them because they make you experience symptoms similar to those I described above?

    Are you, in fact, a better editor than every newspaper, magazine, and web editor out there today?

    Because it could easily seem that you feel that way, since you pepper carriage returns willy-nilly into pretty much everything I've read here.

    Or is it that you're trying to create dramatic pauses?

    I mean really artificial dramatic pauses.

    In my opinion, dramatic pauses automatically lose their drama after about three occurrences.

    Sometimes I wonder, "Could it be bookofjoe content is all part of a research paper that has to be a certain number of pages when done?"

    "Is this the blog equivalent of triple-spacing to pad out a woefully short assignment?"

    In any of these cases, I'm sorry to say, it's getting old.

    Very old indeed.

    Very sorry to say, actually, since it's really none of my business.

    I just had to vent.

    I hope you take this in the good-natured spirit in which it is meant.

    By the way, I just finished reading "When the Air Hits Your Brain" after reading your recommendation a few weeks ago, and found it fairly fascinating. I found myself wishing for a lot more patient stories than he included, though. Thanks for the tip.

    Mike Harney



I listen to two things in the world: my readers and my Rice Krispies (not necessarily in that order).

Should I cease-and-desist per Mike's suggestion or continue as I am?

U tell me.

joeheads, it's your turn.

June 1, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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When I write spontaneously, my paragraphs are very short. When I read the stuff later, it looks fine to me. But -- and this is kind of odd -- when I take out selected line breaks to create longer paragraphs, I usually like the result.

There's nothing wrong with your writing style, jas. But try it the other way, if you have doubts. See how you like it.

Posted by: Kate | Jun 3, 2006 12:30:52 PM

Do. As. You. Will. And. Don't. Sweat. The. Small. Stuff.

Posted by: IB | Jun 2, 2006 10:17:08 AM

I agree with what Mike said. When you copy-paste stories from NYTimes or other sources, this style of each-sentence-as-a-paragraph is really irritating.

Why the need to format? Why not publish it the way it was published?

Anyways, I am glad that you atleast give the original source so that I could read it there the way it was meant to be.

A faithful reader for the past two years now;)


Posted by: Ram | Jun 2, 2006 10:05:13 AM

i am always amazed when reading such comments. i have seen it on other blogs too. someone telling someone else how to write on THEIR personal blog. isn't that why these things have become so rediculously popular because there are so many styles with so many personalities out there just doing THEIR own thing and we somehow get to know them through that style? this is the doc's own blog. i like the way he states things. i am sure the way i am writig now is driving him nuts because he is such a stickler for perfection. too bad. this is MY personal comment.
i am just sayin.................................

Posted by: dbl | Jun 2, 2006 9:20:22 AM

It doesn't matter to me.

Posted by: Brian | Jun 2, 2006 8:39:26 AM

The fact that I have never noticed Joe's formatting means one thing - the words alone matter. Now as I write this the demise of BOJ 1.0 makes more sense. I don't think I did alot of reading back then, but I sure enjoyed the posts. Right it backwards for all I care, I can alway get a mirror.

Posted by: Darren Markland | Jun 2, 2006 3:17:33 AM

I love your style.

Don't even pay attention to the hater

Posted by: wingpea | Jun 2, 2006 2:33:39 AM

I likey. Easy for stupid person like me to read?

No, no, just kidding.. I love this blog and, yes, I freely admit that the ones with the 5-page paragraphs venting about this or that, they don't.. hold my attention.

Keep up your silly non-paragraphing, I think the simplicity is what keeps so many people coming back

Posted by: Theresa | Jun 1, 2006 6:33:51 PM

Joe Stirt's writing style is the coffee sleeve to the bookofjoe content contained therein!

Posted by: Cassandra | Jun 1, 2006 5:48:37 PM

Yeah, Rob, he knew he wrote his email in the exact same style. He was illustrating how annoying it can be. It's pretty unlikely that he was kidding since he repeated the point five comments up.

I like the way Joe writes, but if you are going to copy articles from other sources, you should leave them as they were.

Posted by: Ray | Jun 1, 2006 5:29:08 PM

Umm.. did anyone consider he was just kidding? Or perhaps is he just completely oblivious to the fact he wrote his email in the exact same style.

Posted by: Rob | Jun 1, 2006 3:47:38 PM

You are Joe, this is your blog. The best way to write a blog is to do it your way. People who enjoy it, will read it. People who don't, will not. But at the very least (and most important), you will continue to enjoy it.

Posted by: Militantplatypus | Jun 1, 2006 3:13:39 PM

Mike Harney is obviously not familiar with ADD or the short attention span..or maybe that's just me

Posted by: Shana | Jun 1, 2006 2:15:17 PM

Hey Joe! I've been a joehead since the days that I wouldn't show your blog to my mother. The bad, good old days, ya know. I personally like just what your doing. Don't conform to what others say it SHOULD be. I don't read you so I can get an english lesson, I read ya because your JOE!

Posted by: Dan Foster | Jun 1, 2006 2:13:53 PM

I agree with Toronto Reader--why not try paragraphs a couple times to see what readers think?

Posted by: Tom | Jun 1, 2006 2:13:20 PM

In my e-mail, I was mainly referring to pasted-in articles from other sources, where reparagraphing introduces -- intentionally or not -- inflection, emphasis, and pauses that were not part of the original writer's intent. I think disassociating all the associated sentences in every paragraph of a story also simultaneously waters down and muddles down the writing. My opinion only.

As to Joe's original prose, of course that should be exactly as he wants it.

Posted by: Mike Harney | Jun 1, 2006 1:11:06 PM

Well, now, it seems like, what with Joe's obvious interest in the design and shape of things, it's not just the content but the look of it, also, that matters. I like the spaces. It's like little fermatas between thoughts - idiosyncratic, maybe, with Joe. I've not spoken to him so I don't know, but I betcha there are all sorts of grace notes and grand pauses in his speech.

I torture the living shit out of sentences, and believe it or not, I actually talk this way, too. It drives people crazy. Good thing I'm so likeable.

Go Joe.

Posted by: Flutist | Jun 1, 2006 11:55:56 AM

Doesn't make for great literature, but it does help the readability on the screen...I say keep doing what you are doing. This isn't an engrish class, ya know.

Posted by: clifyt | Jun 1, 2006 11:52:10 AM

Joe, as a daily reader (you are my second tabbed bookmark, BoingBoing being the first) I have to agree with the letter/email writer and think you should at least try writing paragraphs with more than one sentence. What have you got to lose? Try it for a bit and see.

Posted by: Toronto Reader | Jun 1, 2006 11:49:18 AM

It wouldn't BE bookofjoe if you changed just ONE little thing! I love it JUST the way it IS!!!

Posted by: marlamac | Jun 1, 2006 11:41:56 AM

I had a moment of thinking that just for fun you wrote the Mike Harney letter yourself. HA.
I like the space between the sentences. I can't even imagine your original, artistic and fun site being crammed with full paragraphs. Don't do it!

Posted by: KAREN PITTMAN | Jun 1, 2006 11:41:50 AM

joe, i love the way you write on here, i feel like you're talking right to me. i also type in an 'unprofessional' format when communicating on the web - note my lack of capitalization, which also sometimes extends to a lack of punctuation when i'm typing very fast.

point being, this is a very special blog where you type to us the way you'd type to your friends (or at least the way i would). in such an informal atmosphere, paragraph formatting doesn't need to match that of a business letter or work of literature.....

yes...this is a different type of blog, where the author is doing it out of his own love for information and sharing it; the lack of ads and friendly tone emphasize this and i would not like to see this change.

i'll even type ' how you doing?' instead of How are you doing?' because to friends, i type the way i talk and no amount of university level english classes can take away my brooklynese.

>>from an award winning poet who appears to be a failure at english when he types to friends and family<<

Posted by: john | Jun 1, 2006 11:16:52 AM

I'm on the opposite side of this commentor.

I love the single sentence, or short thought separated by blank lines.

if e.e. cummings can get away with no capitols, joe, can be creative with blank lines.

But, I digress.

I love Joe's style of writing.

And now you know, the rest of the story.

Posted by: mattp9 | Jun 1, 2006 11:12:30 AM

I am not quite sure I even understand what he meant.

Like the other Harvey "Paul Harvey" said, You write like you think. (or something like that)

Maybe it is his uncle and he is twisted by dangling participles, if you know what I mean.

Posted by: matt | Jun 1, 2006 10:18:48 AM

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