Versatile or Equally Poor?

In BEDA 2011 on April 18, 2011 at 5:11 pm

The former editor-in-chief of my campus’s newspaper told me several months ago that he used to be very good at writing English essays in college, but he lost the skill once he started writing news stories more often.

He said a person only excels in one kind of writing.

Last semester, I had an essay meeting with one of my professors for an English class, and she reminded me that English essays are very different and journalistic writing.

I know. (Please read this in Adam Scott’s voice from “Party Down”‘s second season’s second episode.)

However, I disagree strongly that a versatile and enthusiastic composer cannot branch out to the different types of the writing word — journalism, fiction novels, poems, analytical essays, etc.

Even within the journalism field, writers should be versatile in their field; they should be able to construct clear opinion pieces and editorials, color feature stories and thorough news stories.

And while I’m not positing that everyone has to be equally good at all of the different writing forms — I, for one, am not a strong hard-news writer — I think it’s expected that they should not only dabble but be efficient in these various forms, as well.

This past school year, I’ve written in journalist, analytical and fictional styles, and I think they’ve all helped me grow as a writer.

Now, while these informal blog posts don’t display the type of writing over which I slave for hours at a time — they’re mainly just 15-minutes blurbs of my daily life — I find that adding this extra blogging style of writing has helped me differentiate between the types even further and help me become a better idea sharer.

And I know that sometimes these concepts in which I believe are nontraditional — in the sense that I doubt most people sit around thinking about whether the different types of writing aid or deter from their writing abilities — I still think conveying these strange ideas in a way that makes sense betters me as a general communicator.

In January, I made 31 videos, and in my head, I’ve been calling them my 31 mini-speeches. Most were impromptu, and I turned the camera on and started making words — which lead to interesting things such as discussing sandwiches and whether wearing a poncho when it rains is acceptable or not.

This semester, I’ve been taking a journalism writing class, a film analysis class and two research-based analysis classes.

I’m reflecting on the different types of writing because I need to finish an eight-page research paper about net neutrality, and I have a major research project/micropage due in my other class, as well. Last week, I had to flesh out a paper analyzing “Coming Home. And when am I not writing journalistically?

John Green graduated Kenyon College with a degree in English. He then worked for Mental Floss magazine, most likely writing in a journalistic manner. While there, he wrote one of my favorite fiction novels, “Looking for Alaska.” He still writes fiction novels, and he also blogs, vlogs (four-minute speeches, if you will) and tweets (which is not only a discussion for another time but its own form of writing), and, you know, I’m sure does more than about which we know. Emailing, to me, is a whole different type of writing totally.

I can expound on all of those last points another time, but I really need to finish this paper.

My question: Does a person’s ability to write different styles of writing play a favorable or unfavorable role in their writing? Is there such thing as being a versatile writing, or can we as communicators only excel in one type of writing communication and not do the others as well as someone who focuses solely on them?

Hopefully I’ll be able to switch gears from blog-writing Ryan to research-analysis-paper-writing Ryan.

  1. You can be a versatile writer but that doesn’t mean that you EXCEL in all of the fields you’re working on. A writer that can adapt to different needs is definitely a good writer, however I wouldn’t say that the one who doesn’t isn’t. But despite the little experience I have, I believe it’s possible to be versatile. And I think that while a good writer can switch between manners or genres, his personal style remains always the same.

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