Saturday, April 24, 2010

New Blog Feature: Executive Summaries

Stephanie Lynn Keil left a comment on this post at FWD/Forward that I think raises a very good point: long, densely-written blog posts are inaccessible to people with some kinds of cognitive disabilities.

As I was reading her comment and nodding along, it occurred to me that I might be one of the writers whose style prevents Stephanie (and probably others) from reading many of my posts! My posts can get very long, and I tend to write long, confusing sentences.

Also, my posts sometimes change their focus as I'm writing them; it can take me hours, days, or even weeks to write one post, so by the time I reach the end of writing one of my longer posts, I can hardly remember what I was talking about when I started writing the thing. I imagine the reader probably feels a similar confusion!

So, I've decided I will start doing short (shooting for 1-3 paragraphs) Executive Summaries of my longer, more information- or theory-dense posts.

Some of these will show up as separate posts (for any series of posts, I think it makes the most sense for the Executive Summary to cover all posts in the series, and be included in the series as a separate post), but most will be tacked on to the beginning of posts like an abstract.

If you're using a feed to read my blog, this might mean that you get spammed with wave after wave of old posts to which I'm adding Executive Summaries, so if you want to avoid having your reader jammed with everything I've ever written, you might consider taking me off whatever feed you're using.


Anemone said...

Jam away. This is a really good idea.

Stephanie said...

Start the trend.

I don't even do it on my own blog.

Then again, my blog posts are either usually really short to begin with or are about nothing in particular anyway.

Amanda said...

I wish I could do that. I've actually been asked to long before this. Unfortunately I have virtually no ability at all to either summarize long posts or elongate short posts. Once when I had spent all day working myself to the point of meltdown trying to do that for someone, and apologetically explained why I couldn't, even asked if others could help me if anyone was willing, she exploded at me and called me lazy, and said that I just wanted to get people to help me do something I could do perfectly well myself. I feel terrible (especially as someone who frequently can't read my own writing) for being unable to do it, but it seems to be a real limitation that practice doesn't improve. If I manage to do it it's always a fluke.

I actually first encountered the idea years ago in a book written about developmental disability. Each chapter had a plain language summary at the start that helped me immensely. I wanted to do similar with my own writing but found that I can't. I have used interpreters before who have had that skill (cognitive/English to English interpreting), it's even written into my IPP that I need such interpretations myself with both speech and writing. But I can't do it for myself no matter how much I want to (and no matter how much anyone else insists I could if I just tried enough).

Stephanie said...

Great idea!

Lindsay said...

Hi, Amanda.

I was actually just thinking of you, and thinking that, even with the short summaries, my posts might *STILL* sometimes be confusing and frustrating for you, since I know that we use language in very different ways.

I might be able to write short digests of longer things I've already written, but I don't think I can change the way I write. Which is too bad, since you've shown me that there are lots of very different ways autistic people use language.

(In light of that, I wouldn't feel bad about not being able to write short summaries if I were you!)

Kowalski said...

Now I'm a bit confused, are you going to repost older posts?
Like your latest post, is it new or an older post?
If you do repost an older entry, it would be helpful to add a bit when it was first published.
Personally I think it's great to get your older posts delivered again (in the feed), because I still haven't managed to read all of them, although I spent ages rummaging though your archives.

Lindsay said...


I was just going to edit my older posts to add the summaries.

The reason I brought up the feed thing is that sometimes when I do go back to fiddle with an older post, even though it stays in the same position within my archives, that older post will sometimes show up in other people's feeds because I published (the edited version of) that post most recently.

Sorry for the confusion --- it confuses me too!

(As to my latest post --- are you referring to the Executive Summary of my Neurodiversity and Feminist Theory series? That *IS* new, I just backdated it so that it would appear next to the posts it summarizes in my archives.)

jump☆art said...

Thank you for trying this out! I had a similar "Amen" moment when reading Stephanie's comment.

Amanda Forest Vivian said...

That's a really cool idea!