Long is the new short.
INTRODUCING THE DIGRESSION TAG FOR BETTER ON SCREEN READING. AND WRITING.
Reading on screen is different from reading on paper. That’s generally accepted. The technical possibilities and general ‘how to’s’ to deal with or exploit these differences are more or less accepted, too. You use hyperlinks. Thy copy shall be concise. Users scroll instead of turning a page (although that one seems to be reversing with the rise of tablets). Use some kind of visually noticeable box to the left, right from or in the copy for extra information. You might open media in layers. And more.
Yet, all of these are fall short. I was thinking of calling them stupid for a moment. But reconsidered and felt no need for offense. All of the techniques above are reasonable. It’s just, they’re not what I want.
What? Did you just see that? This unfurling and furling when you click on that bit of copy with the … at it’s end?
That’s it. The solution to better reading on screen. And writing for the screen. The: digression tag.
Because. With all tech in place. Reading online still is either disrupted by hopping around following links. Or, once in a text, you’re stuck with age old linear reading from top to bottom. No room for annotations, extra information, background, flexibility. Well: Digression.
Put differently: If there are elements to ‘help’ you reading, they always stand out. But nothing ever stands back. That does have a severe effect on reading. And writing.
There may be some deeply in human behaviour engraved reason why all attention guiding measures always amount to shouting at the reader. Never politely taking him by the hand. Might just be advertising, though.
Because it sure enough doesn’t help reading. Or writing. Yes, there are ways to catch the users attention within an article making him skip and glance. But then the reader stops reading your carefully crafted copy properly.
And there is of course page flipping galore on touch devices. But that’s more catering to the overall experience. The act or usability of reading itself hardly gets better if you flip a page on a screen.
The digression tag aims to solve this. It puts the main storyline of what you want to say or read front and centre. Making for a short read and concentrated writing.
But it makes room for whatever background there is right within the flow of reading and writing. Things that aren’t essential to an article’s understanding, but provide background. Thoughts leading to a point, alternative views, side aspects, useful material otherwise tucked away in footnotes or left out.
And it does that without you as a reader having to go to different places out there somewhere in the internet, open a layer and thus divert from what you’re reading. And without you as a writer cutting short on information, opinion, or the pure joy of storytelling because of the fold in your head.
Of course, as a reader, you want what you read not to be bloaty. Chances of you starting to read a text are higher if you can see the end from the beginning. But then what if you wish the author would elaborate once you’re in the middle and he doesn’t, because he can’t? Disappointing, right. Because now you’d be up to it.
And as a writer you now have permission to be bloaty. No, not that. But the ability to stretch things just a little more without the fear of losing your audience. You can have the short story for everybody. The longer one for those interested.
The digression tag is like an opt-in for reading. Once you grant or gain permission, there’s more.
So who knows. If everybody uses it, one day it’ll really just be a tag in HTML. Like <li>, <strong>, and whatnot. Type <digression> and off it goes. Because it should.
Happy digressing everybody.
And of course. The digression tag does not aim at replacing the hyperlink, the layer, even page flipping or additional information content boxes you want to stick at your screen somewhere. It sits next to these. Waiting for your wish to discover.
Oh. And while we believe it’ll make your writing better. It does not make you a better writer. Sorry for that.