Write conversationally? GUH!

A lot of clients ask for advice about writing for new media, and we regularly conduct workshops. It’s a tough thing to describe, and I’ve usually gone with the old “be more conversational” concept. I’m changing that, as of today, because I’ve encountered a new word that’s made me think.

GUH, according to the handy-dandy (and who could live without it?) Urban Dictionary, is:

Guh is to be used when a person says something so idiotic, moronic, and just plain stupid that you do not wish to use any brain power to reply and simply respond “guh.”

It’s hug spelled backwards and ugh spelled sideways. Who knew?

This could have been one of those serendipitous Web moments that I just put away in my memory banks for later usage had it not been the context within which I found it. There it was, smack dab in the middle of a story on TBD.com:

Cohen concludes. “I was young and boorish once myself and have turned out to be a veritable saint.” GUH

Huh? (That’s guh with a silent G)

So I did a little investigating and discovered that this word is commonly used — on non-traditional media sites bubbling up around the mainstream, sports sites, blogs, comments to stories and even some places that you might not expect.

The Guardian:

High on the list of Contemporary Fashion’s Most Annoying Whimsies, is its ongoing affection for clothes designed according to the principle of the (guh) “boyfriend cut”

The Washington Post Blog (comments, same post):

Full-blown hockey back on CSN HD! (Unfortunately, it’s Thrashers-Rangers. Guh.)

I was referring to my own attempts to push it further. (Guh. Gonna leave that in, but still …)

ProFootballTalk

“During practice Jordan Palmer and Dan LeFevour split the snaps,” Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes.  Guh.

SBNation

You’re down eight points if you kick the PAT. Score a touchdown and you have to go for two. Guh. I don’t even want to talk about this any more.

What I absolutely love about this is the personality reflected by the use of purely Web terms (that’s what “guh” is, right?) in the prose of these examples. So I’m changing my recommendation to clients now. Writing in conversational style is only part of the secret to writing for the Web. The other part is writing in the language of the medium itself, and that takes a bit of study and a whole lot of understanding.

This is another one of those issues that makes me feel that upstart, Web-only news and information entities have a leg up on traditional media, despite what the numbers might say today. You can’t just toss “guh” into an otherwise stiff, mechanical, AP Stylebook story and think you’re writing for the Web. GUH!

Comments

  1. Well done Terry. Don’t you just love web-speak?

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