Coffee Share 200208 – Ordered Lists & Memes

This is a Weekly Coffee Share Essay.
I’m part of a small group of bloggers who stay in touch and chat about blogging, writing, or just about anything else that might be of interest. Here’s mine for the week ending Feb. 8, 2020.
Link to This week’s full list
Link to my Story Blog. Come share a laugh with me.

Good day all.  Thanks for stopping by.

Today, (post crazy week @ work) I’m trying to catch up with gobs of neglected stuff.

It’s a nice – if chilly, very sunny day in the lower wine vineyard region of Sonoma County.  I’ve just finished my 4th 16 oz. mug of tea and an ready for the day.  Let’s see, 4 x 16 = 64 oz.  Try that with coffee guys!

I’ve gotten through some reading I always try to start my day with and part of today’s stack took me to some of the history of Alexis de Tocqueville from the 1830s France and US.


Many of you will recall that he wrote a lot of what became important 3rd party analysis of how the US functions and succeeds in establishing some degree of social equity for its citizens.  There’s a lot in this, but it was a wonderful way to start the day with some high protein intellectual meat for thought.

Because Mr. Tocqueville’s writing has also been accused of being tedious and hard to understand, this got me thinking about writing formats.  So, I have a thought to bounce off of you.  If you’ve read much of my work, either in permanent stories or my weekly coffee shares, you’ve seen me order some of my discussions in numbered or bulleted lists.

For me this had to come from all the technical and some times educational, status or persuasive items I produce as part of my job.  Specifically,  in technical writing, the author has to be tightly ordered and lay out facts in a manner that are easy to read to provide the reader an easy means of consuming what might otherwise be an overly dense paragraph with lots of important detail and is in a form that is easy for the reader to immediately circle back and review each point in excruciating detail.

Okay, that last paragraph was a painful read.  I understand, but I wrote it that way to make my point.  It was a hard read.  But what if I had formatted it differently?  Try this version of the same words just laid out differently:

  1. For me this had to come from all the:
    1. technical and some times,
    2. educational,
    3. status or
    4. persuasive items I produce as part of my job.
  2. Specifically,  in technical writing, the author has to be:
    1. tightly ordered and
    2. lay out facts in a manner that are easy to read to
    3. provide the reader an easy means of consuming what might otherwise be an,
    4. overly dense paragraph with lots of important detail and
    5. is in a form that is easy for the reader to immediately circle back and review each point in excruciating detail.

Even with that long run-on thought halfway through the second sentence, don’t you agree that this degree of detail presented in this form helps the reader follow what the author is trying to say?

If you wanted to go back and assure your understanding of what was being said, do you agree that this ordered list really helps.

Now, you can’t really, nor should you even try to layout a whole novel in this format.  That would all but kill the reason many of us read in the first place – for the joy of how well-chosen words can flow through our minds and build images of characters, their challenges and thoughts, how a story unfolds in ways that tug at our hearts or put us in fear of a fictional character’s safety.

That said, I like to use this type of ordered list sometimes because they also carry a voice inflection when writing in first-person can enhance the fun of reading.  I have used this device myself and like the mental sound and feel of it.  If interested you can see it in use near the end of a story that, arguably my friends and I should not have survived, but we did, in: The Eucalyptus Sprouts Adventure.

 – – = = ( o ) = = – –

In this same vein, what is your opinion of Memes?  You know, those images with just a short sentence or phrase that captures some small thought, normally meant to be funny somehow.  They seem to have become social media’s main vocabulary.

Don’t they just scream at you about how short the attention span is for many people these days?  If you can make it fit into a meme, you’ll have hundreds of viewers or readers just by dropping it into the flow of whatever app you like to communicate with.  But if your writing has no image and anything more that a few short sentences, your chances of being read drops in inverse proportion to the word count.

So what actually came  first: the meme or ‘flash fiction’?

My own kids, all now in their mid 20s, tell me that for their generation, memes are a primary means of communication.  I want to scoff, but I can think of few books that draw an audience like a viral photo of a cat making smart remarks.

Is this not the essence of why we want to make our writing tight and short?  New War and Peace epics stand little chance of being read – because, who would take the time?

Picard memeThis really is the main reason I decided early on to limit all my stories (for now) to 2000 works or less.  Asking someone for 10 minutes is tough enough and when your humor competition is succeeding with photos of Jean Luc Picard of Star Trek Next Generation, asking acidic rhetorical questions.

I’ve been tempted to call my next writing project; something – something, a meme-free zone.  But now I believe this would limit my audience to a very low double digit number of readers.  Perhaps I could design and release a meme as a title for a new story collection. . .  Hmmm, or would that just defeat the whole intended purpose?

Sigh. . .

Okay, that’s it for me for now.  I’d love to hear your reactions.

If you post a coffee share, I’ll see you soon over there shortly.  Thanks for stopping by.


To select another story, please visit the full index by clicking here.

Gary photo n bio

16 thoughts on “Coffee Share 200208 – Ordered Lists & Memes

  1. List vs the “bad paragraph: In ways I disagree for this type of writing. I didn’t have a lot of problems with that difficult paragraph while the structure lists is, in my opinion, a little jarring in a very informal, chat style conversation of a post. If we were sitting having coffee, you would say, “I tend to write in lists. One, for me….” Most of the coffee post is you sitting and just chatting. Now, there are times you might talk in a list, and count it off on your fingers, but…

    I think short attention span and that people of a certain age really do get their information from soundbites and memes is one of the biggest problems with the world today. Any real problem can’t be described in a meme and any really solution can’t be given in a soundbite!

    Anyway, I hope you are having a great weekend after your tough work week and that you have a great week ahead 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great reply Trent.
      For formal writing, of course you are correct. Established norms do not, and should not, yield without very good reasons. Informal writing is where things can easily get strange. With informal, there is more latitude and the rules are often based more on what works for your readers. It’s a fun area to explore but I did drive my English teachers nuts sometimes. Guilty as charged.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. lol, I’m sure you did occasionally drive your English teachers crazy… You do a good job with the conversational style of writing, both in the coffee posts and your autobiographical sketches. And, yes, you can do an informal structured list, but my mind usually sees a structured list and goes into “work mode”. But exploring things and styles can be half of the fun of blogging…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Formatting, I feel, always depends on your subject matter and what you are trying to portray. With technical writing it is a must as it helps to order information for the reader. It does not suit fiction too much – which relies on imagery, paragraphing and word choice. (Unless, of course, in your fiction you are emulating a character who loves lists!)
    But the best part of writing is that you get to choose when 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. While I am not really a list person myself when it comes to writing and think conversational writing style is much more pleasant both to write in and read when it comes to informal writing, I can definitely see how it can sometimes work and be helpful both for you to be able to express yourself clearly and be sure that your readers will understand what you exactly mean, and for your readers not to drown in details that are less important and miss those that are key.
    I’m a bit ignorant about memes as I’m blind, haha, generally I think they’re fun and can be a good creativity outlet and a fun way to express yourself, but I find it rather sad that people prioritise image and visual stimuli so much over written word these days, and, moreover, don’t even seem to care much about the quality of all that visual stuff – a writing that has an image, whatever kind of image, is much more likely to be clicked on by an average Internet user rather than a writing that does not have a pic to go with it, and usually people will only look at the images and only skim through or completely ignore the text. – That makes for an increasing challenge for people like bloggers or whatever kind of writers to have their content seen and actually read, and they either have to compromise to that and write things that are short and sweet and quick and easy to read or be aware that they are probably not likely to attract loads of readers. That can certainly be frustrating and I can see it especially when someone makes money on their writing. But then on the other hand people for example like me, who blog, and who have little to no pics on their blogs/websites, will perhaps have less traffic than they would otherwise, but at least those readers who will come to their blog will be genuinely interested in their writing.
    Hope you’re having a great weekend. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Emilia for such a thoughtful response and for moving the conversation forward. I used to make my English teachers nuts with some of my creative use of sentence structure and grammar. And memes… They just frustrate me because most serious thoughts and ideas just won’t fit into a meme, thus must memes feel silly, too silly for adult serious conversations. I hope you’re winding down a great weekend and have even a better one starting in a few hours.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. My 20+ year olds regard memes as part of the language of their generation, and they don’t strongly disagree about the “value” of memes…
      sigh anyway…


  4. Hi Gary. While I can deal with a good meme (and even get a chuckle), I’ll take some well written fiction over that anyday. As for lists, I think they could be used in a story type way, but it would definitely be story specific. For me, it would have to be a character talking maybe, and he could be a real stickler for details or something, idk. It could work, just wouldn’t be my go-to, if that makes sense.

    Have a great week Gary!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Depending on the subject matter and place of publication, formatting can be very important.
    number 1 lists are important when well you are listing items and steps that one can follow through or if its notes from a class about the reasons behind the collapsing of an empire
    number 2 I was always terrible at listing my ideas as all my thoghts overlap into each other like
    number 3 my English teacher used to give me endless grief to write short concise sentences, which I never could nor wanted too, why teach me to fly and then tell yet prefer me to crawl about the ha!
    number 4 I eventually got to a far compromise but and here we are….

    I rather love a well placed meme I have a draft folder full of them I love captioning memes getting them to convey a message or feeling in a few words.


    1. Hi Beaton,
      Great thoughts & response – thanks. I also like to use a list (though un-numbered for this purpose) to force the reader into longer pauses,
      which allows me,
      the writer,
      to dramatically unfold a thought,
      so the reader can enjoy the mental taste,
      of each, succulent fragment of thought.

      On the other hand, it can drive innocent English teachers to tears.

      Re: your collection of draft memes, this is why you will succeed with certain audiences while the rest of us flail about, trying to hold reader’s attentions long enough to finish our detailed paragraphs.

      You remain – The Man.
      In this case, the meme-man…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nicely done!
        Instantly transforming,
        an otherwise regular string of words into,

        * a meme of a man expertly throwing salt to season would have been here to punctuate *

        …..wait until WP allows for a simple way to include images in comments, it will be meme-fest

        Liked by 1 person

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