2017 Needs Brevity And Nuance

January 01, 2017

Firstly, happy new year to you all!

This post has been on my mind for a while and seeing as it's the start of a new year, I thought it necessary to write it now while I'm in a writing mood. There have been a couple of instances in the past few weeks where I've noticed journalists and influential figures tweeting their thoughts, receiving a backlash and the classic "I was misunderstood, but what did I expect from Twitter?" retort. Well, what did you expect?

Of the two examples I can remember, one involved someone supposedly being "misinterpreted" and claiming "if you don't say it exactly on here Twitter, people will interpret it for what they want. Because people are stupid." (That's a direct quote by the way.) The second was the tweet Steve Martin sent in tribute to Carrie Fisher, who sadly passed away a few days ago. It was as follows:

“When I was a young man, Carrie Fisher was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen [...] She turned out to be witty and bright as well.”

It was later deleted after accusations of sexism. No matter what the intentions were in that tweet, it doesn't read well to me and obviously not to hundreds who read it. That's not a coincidence and neither are many tweets and online messages sent out over the past year and beyond. So here's a tip for anyone with an important message to send in 2017: don't do it on Twitter. You only have 140 characters per tweet and if it can't retain a sensible context within those parameters, choose another medium. It's like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole - there's another place for your comment and Twitter is definitely not it. But the problem is that square peg has been poorly carved to fit and caused problems for the writer and the readers. Sometimes, those thoughts have been prejudiced anyway so there's no chance of an alternative perspective - it's just bad.

And that's precisely why we need some nuance this year. I feel like I've overused that word and it's lost all meaning but it's a social requirement for 2016. Binary constructs need taking down. Sexuality, race, religion, and politics are all fluid ideas. Nuance is necessary in discussing and understanding them. When it comes to racism, it's very important to take subtle differences on board when unravelling the troubles PoC face in their adversity. Intersectionality might seem like a millennial buzzword to you but it's not and needs to be taken seriously. Ignorance of those social modulations lead to further harm and given who's getting inaugurated in a few weeks, we need as much protection as possible.

But where does brevity come into play? It can come in conflict with nuance when a broad topic comes into question. Even this article could be more concise after I've edited and published it. I think brevity is important for 2017 because online media in particular has suffered with linguistic saturation and an obsession with narrative. I recently wrote an unpublished article called Football Is Dead where I rang the death knell on the sport thanks to its replacement: The Narrative. There's a lot of focus on talking and writing over the actual event and it isn't confined to the annals of sport. The news is overflowing with jargon, unnecessary words and ill-thought ideas. I've had to block The Guardian on Twitter because the opinion pieces coming through were terrible. I couldn't believe they got past an editor, both in context and general grammar and construction. My best writing has come from an academic perspective, where both brevity and nuance are crucial tools. I wouldn't have got a First for my dissertation without them. We need those tools for what we read and hear in 2017.

This won't dumb down journalistic output as some may suggest. Active writing can still flourish with care for succinctness and understanding of social differences. In fact, these ideas will bolster the messages needed. A clearly constructed message along with the follow through of action and education are vital in this fight against rising fascism. Trump and his ilk don't know the meaning of brevity and nuance. Publications like Inf0wars and Br3itbart are overflowing with offensive and confused rhetoric and because we're in a culture of more is better and they shout it the loudest, it's taken in by so many. That's not to say the direct opposite is what we need - talking quiet and saying nothing never solved anything. It's about saying and doing the considered amount with respect for the marginalised, particularly when their voice needs to be heard and not censored or quashed.