Hierarchy of Words


Dan Drezner observes that,

One of the biggest mistakes traditional academics make is to take all words equally seriously.  That is to say, academics who do not write for a non-scholarly audience tend to assume that it takes an equal length of time and effort to compose a journal article, an op-ed, or even a blog post.  In reality, it’s kind of like circuit training — each activity exercises a different set of writing muscles (that said, journal articles require way more reps than other forms of writing).

He goes on to rank, by degree of effort required, 15 categories of words ranging from books for university presses to mutterings at the bar.  I might rank a few of these differently, based on my own proclivities and skillsets, but they’re about right.

But even within these categories, not all writing is created equal.  For example, I can often crank out a fairly lengthy blog post articulating a specific idea rather quickly while a seemingly no-thought roundup essay, requiring substantial research and formatting, can take much, much longer.

I’m also much more efficient at writing blog posts when I haven’t been up late watching a football game, helping get a cranky baby to sleep, awakened several times during the night by said baby, and then spent much of the morning driving to and attending a staff meeting.  But your mileage may vary.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Triumph says:

    hen spent much of the morning driving to and attending a staff meeting.

    At least during the meeting you have some down time to write a post.

    People will actually think you’re taking notes, but in actuality you’ll be doing something useful.

    I am actually in a meeting right now…boss just muttered something about TPS reports…

  2. Bill says:

    Weren’t those TPS reports supposed to be on his desk last Friday before you left for the day?