Friday, June 20, 2008

What is Style? Revisited

After many different projects in this short time, I've really learned a lot about writing and technology, and how it encompasses style. I guess before this class started, I didn't think about how large of an effect style makes. It really involves more than just the writer--you have to always think about the audience. It's a lot more than just words on a page--it's how those words look, how they sound when you read them, the image you get in your's a very big part of writing that I guess I just didn't fully comprehend.

I think that through the different essays and readings we were given, I was able to look at style in a different way each time. I learned about style through images in the visual rhetoric assignment, I learned about good, effective writing style through the guides we read, I was made aware of how style has stemmed into web design, and I saw firsthand how far style has come in terms of writing technologies. Being able to realize this in such a broad spectrum has really shaped how much I weigh style in an essay.

What I have learned through this class is to always be clear, effective, and consider your audience. I hope that these lessons stay with me and that I can pass them on to my students as well.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Most Important Web Rule

I knew right away what rule I thought was most important--

No matter what your website is about, you have to design it so that it's user-friendly.

I don't mean that every website should be simple and elementary, but if I were to sit my nearly-computer-illiterate mother down at the computer, she would have a notion of how to navigate the site, regardless of whether she could comprehend the information.

I think that being careful not to overdo too many details really is important. It shouldn't look like something exploded on the screen when you open a page, but it also should feel inviting and professional.

I feel like the opening sections of the Lynch and Horton really explain this rule well:

At minimum, a good site specification should define the content scope, budget, schedule, and technical aspects of the Web site. The best site specifications are very short and to the point, and are often just outlines or bullet lists of the major design or technical features planned. The finished site specification should contain the goals statement from the planning phase, as well as the structural details of the site.

Also, the Lynch and Horton lists some questions that the web designer should ask themselves. I used these questions when I was creating my website, and I found that they really do help:

What is the mission of your organization?
How will creating a Web site support your mission?
What are your two or three most important goals for the site?
Who is the primary audience for the Web site?
What do you want the audience to think or do after having visited your site?
What Web-related strategies will you use to achieve those goals?
How will you measure the success of your site?
How will you adequately maintain the finished site?

By asking myself these questions, I was able to really get to the heart of the matter and not worry about how "pretty" my site was going to look. The primary audience is key--writing for your audience is something that we often talk about in written documents, and the same should go for online sites as well.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Paper Style/Web Style

I agree with Prof. Krause's analogy about style guides:

SpiderPro is to Strunk and White as Horton and Lynch is to Williams.

Both of these style guides for the web offer a lot of advice as to how to create and perfect a professional website. While the SpiderPro list is slightly more "user-friendly" in their explanation and layout, both manuals can be used to gain sufficient information fairly easily.

After reading through the guides, I began to think about how much web style is a lot like a writing style. Take, for example, the rules about content from the Spiderpro guide: know your audience, don't use meaningless words, don't use jargon, present the issues right away. All of these topics also pertain to a written essay. I feel like as far as content is concerned, if you wouldn't put it in a written document, then it probably shouldn't be any different for a website.

Another similarily in writing style and web style is the "before you begin" process. In essay writing, pre-writing or "brainstorming" is essential. Even a rough outline helps develop ideas and connect thoughts. In web style, I was happy to see that a process like that also occurs. The Horton and Lynch guide offers the following things to think about before beginning the web project: What are your goals? Know your audience. Design critiques. Content inventory. These basic steps to prethinking in web design have the same purpose in essay writing as well.

Personally, when I was thinking about what differences occur between writing style and web style, the first thing that jumped into my head was the use of color and text variance. I think visually, a web style can really be poignant and effective. By the same token, a web creator must be careful not to overuse too many fonts or sizes or colors. While the option of adding a graphic or shading a background is available for the web, it sometimes can hurt the overall effect of the project if it's not done well. While 12-pt. Times New Roman can sometimes be dismal and plain, it's at least consistent in written writing, which may be an advantage in this case.

Friday, June 6, 2008

McCloud Part 2

I really liked Jennifer's comic that she chose to review for the first blog assignment.

Using McCloud's website she located a comic called "The Right Number" which is a comic in two parts, created in 2003. After reading Jennifer's blog description of the comic, I knew it was what I wanted to read for myself and then review. I didn't know until going to the site that this was supposed to also have a third chapter, but as McCloud states in the sidebar: "Note: The Right Number was originally presented in June 2003 using a micropayments system offered by a company called Bitpass, sold for 25 cents each. Since Bitpass ceased operations in January 2007, I'm offering Parts One and Two for free now.

Part Three was delayed due to severe hand strain problems on my part a few years ago and delayed again when I began work on my recent book, Making Comics. I do still hope to finish the third and final chapter and make it available at some point in the future. Part Three will also be offered free through this page. (Sorry for the delay!)

Although the The Right Number was an experimental story, in an experimental format using an experimental payment system, I do like it as a story. I hope you will too."

Reading that from the author helped prepare me before reading the comic itself.
Even before reading the comic, the notes from clicking the blue arrow really helped me, and I knew right away it was going to be completely different from the first McCloud comic I chose, since mine was complete on one page, while this particular web comic has one panel per page.

Here's my synopsis:
A man prefaces his story with a simple "I know something you don't know, and I'll let you in on my secret."

He states he was previously involved with a woman, whom he had met and was dating. He had called to meet her for dinner at their favorite restaurant, yet when he gets there, something seems different about her. Then he realizes that it isn't the same woman at all! He has misdialed her phone number by one digit. The new woman had yet to realize the mix-up, as she was waiting for a phone call for a dinner date from someone she had met online. They laughed off the situation, and she left.

Eventually, things did not work out for the "real" couple, and he calls the woman with the similar phone number. They begin dating, but unfortunately, things did not work out.

Thinking that there was a connection between someone's phone number and personality, our main character thinks he can find his perfect match by altering a phone number slightly. He begins testing his theory, but can't find the woman of his dreams. The question at the end of part two remains: Will he ever find the woman of his dreams by using his phone number theory?

I completely agree with Jennifer's point in her original blog:
"Since in “The Right Number” the frames transition from with in one another there is no space. The gutter can give ideas for time space and an idea of how to read the comic. With the web comics format the gutter is not seen but moving within the frame onto closeup for greater effect is available. At one point the frames move in from a complete setting to closer and closer to the main character, until we end on the single eye of the main character. Which creates a symbol of seeing things from the characters view for the next scenes."

This comic is just one of many from McCloud (and others) that proves comics just aren't a thing for children. In fact, this is a very adult comic, and I think this is a great example of chapter 5, Living in Line, in McCloud's "Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art". This chapter questions if emotions can be visible, without proposed text. I feel that they can be, and McCloud states that "the idea that a picture can evoke an emotional or sensual response in the viewer is vital to the art of comics." (121) I feel like this is true especially in "The Right Number", because this comic provides many different emotional reactions from the reader. This is a topic that can be explored in situations other than comics, but in this instance, the overall mood and reactions are different.

Finally, I think that all comics can be inferred differently, or at least have the reader receive the comic in many different ways. Jennifer and I read and reviewed the same comic, and while we both understood and agreed on certain aspects of the comic, there are many other little details that leave one to believe that comics can be like mystery novels--it's not always the same the second time around.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

McCloud #1

The comic I chose from Scott McCloud's website was from his "The Morning Improv" section, where he said he devoted one hour of time to whatever thought popped into his head. I selected "The Accidental Dentist" a 16-paneled comic view on President Bush. In the comic, Bill (a car repair man) and Pete (a dentist) are discussing work when George shows up. George (wearing a G.W.B. nametag) mentions that he missed Pete at dinner, when Pete tells him that there was a whole slew of problems that ACCIDENTALLY led him to administering novocaine and performing a root canal. Bill chimes in with a story about how due to the nature of the events, he ACCIDENTALLY had to perform all this extraneous work to a car while out with his wife at the Home Depot. George adds his story about how he ACCIDENTALLY ran for governor, ran for President, dismantled the Bill of Rights, started a war or two, pissed off America's friends and destabalized the Middle East. The next panel is wordless, followed by Bill offering "it's not like you MEANT to do it"

I think this comic offered a lot of insight into just how much can be said by one person in a contained amount of space. Sure, this was a funny way to present the author's view on George W. Bush and the job he is doing as President, but the amount of thought and the detail that went into the thought process and execution of this comic is really amazing. I liked this comic because the panel without any words is a good example of McCloud's chapter on time frames. He says "just as pictures and the intervals between them create the illusion of time through closure, words introduce time by representing that which can only exist in time--sound" (95) In a comic that uses many words per panel, one panel without any text really stands out and has a powerful effect on the reader.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What Others Are Saying...

I agree with others that this post was really fun because it's almost like having a classroom discussion. It was nice to see what everyone else was thinking, and discovering if we were agreeing or not on the issues with the text. It was relieving to see that for the most part, the class agrees on issues, namely that S&W is far more accessible for younger, more novice writers while the Williams is suitable for the advanced, experienced writer.

What I liked most about reading through my classmates' blogs was observing the differences that we had. As Beth commented, these books were written with the intention of making us better writers. I often lost sight of that when I was reading the books, because I was so caught up in the chapters themselves that I lost the "bigger picture". Being reminded of that little fact makes a world of difference.

I could really relate to Rebecca when she says "I think the Williams did a good job giving plenty of examples, although some were very length and hard to concentrate on. " I think this seemed to be the general consensus with the whole class, but it also seems to be that everyone learned and benefited from the text as well. The generic statement from most blogs seemed to be "It was a hard read, but I learned a lot."

Finally, in Kiersten's second paragraph of her post comparing the Williams and S&W, she makes a great point about how even the titles of the chapters were more clear in the Williams. This is something I never would have really considered, but reading these comparisons from the perspective of others really opens my eyes to additional aspects of these texts. Lastly, it helps me to reinforce the ideas I already had prior to reading the blogs of others.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Comparing Strunk & White with Williams

In reading both the Strunk & White and the Wiliams, I think there are positives and negatives to both texts. If I wanted a clear-cut, easy answer, I'd pick up the S&W. However, if I wanted an answer that was more thorough, provided examples and detailed information, I'd lean towards the Williams.

In reading the Strunk and White, it was an easy book to read, though as others have said, is more of a reference book than anything else. This book seems geared toward the everyday writer who may be concerned about usage or other simplistic elements of writing style. Even the titles of their sections, "Elementary Rules of Usage" and "Elementary Principles of Composition" suggest as much. While nothing in the book seemed completely wrong, it didn't always go into ample detail. This illustrates their focus on clarity, but I don't think I realized the extent of it until reading the Williams and observing the difference between the two books. Again, the Strunk and White makes it very easy for someone to find an aswer to their question, though it may not be the BEST answer available, just one that S&W believe is the most appropriate.

I feel the Williams text is much more in-depth and advanced than the Strunk and White. While I have previously said that S&W seems geared toward the everyday writer, that does not mean that the same everyday writer could not appreciate or learn from the Williams text. However, this text requires more thought, as it goes into great detail and uses many examples to support ideas presented in the text. This text goes beyond the Strunk and White, and while it is harder to read, still provides a lot of valuable information. There is a great difference in the two texts that can be observed when comparing their views on "usage", as several other classmates have stated. Ironically, Williams chose a quote from White to preface his chapter on the subject!

To illustrate another example of the difference between the two books, look at the Strunk and White, p. 17, rule #9.

"As a rule, begin each paragraph with a topic sentence, end it in conformity with the beginning."

The following paragraphs clearly outline why this is necessary, and explain what the outcome may be if the rule is not followed. Additionally, they state that the topic sentence should come at or near the beginning. Later, they support that the topic sentence should "simply indicate by its subject with what the paragraph is to be principally concerned."

The information provided above is clear, concise, and easy to follow. The Williams goes into much greater detail regarding the following topic, and says on p. 89:

"How we open a paragraph determines how our readers will read the rest of it, because in our opening we tell them how to frame the conceptual space that they are about to enter."

That sentence alone offers just as much information as the Strunk and White, and while the sentence may garner more than one reading to be understood, shares more to the reader as to why the opening of a paragraph is so important. While Williams, throughout the entirety of his chapter on Coherence and explanation of topic strings, voices similar guidelines like the S&W, he lengthens this point by breaking it down into several important factors. (Thematic strings, topic strings, etc.)

Through these two books, and the example I chose, I have found that both are important to have to reference in the future. (Being a future educator, I also see the significance of having both of these books available for my students.) The focus in each book is so different that selecting which book to use depends largely on what is trying to be accomplished by the writer.