Post, Entry or Article?

By Guest Author

This is a guest post by Eric Cummings. If you want to write for Daily Writing Tips check the guidelines here.

My co-blogger and I have come across an interesting usage problem. We don’t know what to call what we write.

It feels strange to refer to blog posts as “articles.” “Articles” sounds official, proper and very old media. “Posts” is the more common word, but it demeans the quality of the writing. I wonder:

How is guest posting for another blog any different than writing an article for a magazine or newspaper?

What if that article I wrote shows up online? Is it now a post?

Where do Slate, Politico and other “e-zines” fit in to all of this?

If someone writes a personal online journal, wouldn’t the word “entry” be more appropriate?

With these questions swirling through my head, I want to pin down exactly what these words mean.

Article

Article, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, comes from the Latin word for joint, articulus. The word’s meaning was expanded to mean something that is part of a larger whole, specifically in writing. Originally, articles were sub-clauses in a document, as in “articles of faith,” “articles of war” or more famously, the Articles of the Constitution.

For our purposes, the word article gained its more modern definition in the early 1700’s:

“Article: a literary composition forming materially part of a journal, magazine, or other collection, but treating a specific topic distinctly and independently.”

What is important here is that an article refers to a piece of writing distinct from the journal, magazine or collection of writing it is a part of. I certainly think this would apply to entries on a blog or pieces on a website. Each post is distinct from the larger blog it is a part of. Of course, certain blogs, like online novels, would not fit this definition.

Post

The original definition of the word “post” was “a stick in the ground.” In the 1800’s, this definition morphed to include notices on those posts. According to the Oxford English Dictionary,

Post: to affix (a paper) to a public place”

The true technological origin of the word came shortly after the birth of the Internet, when forums and Usenet boards appropriated the word “post.” Early Internet users “posted” messages to one another, and the message itself became a “post.” As blogs and blogging became popular, the entries on blogs became “blog posts,” or “posts” for short.

Entry

According to the Oxford English Dictionary,

Entry: an item in a list or an account book.”

And of course this includes entries in a journal. Since a lot of early weblogs were journals, the term “entry” was very common.

So, what should you call it?

Well, I still don’t know.

For me, unless I’m writing a personal journal or a travel blog, I wouldn’t use the word “entry.” It has a very informal tone.

As for the “article” vs “post” debate, like a lot of usage, it comes down to preference. I think an article is something that goes on a larger website, like Politico, Pitchfork or Slate. A piece of writing on a website with a front page with multiple links–or content not displayed in reverse chronological order–I would call an article. A “post” is a piece of writing on a blog, for example, DailyBlogTips.

The line is blurry. What do you think? What do you prefer to call what you write when you blog?

Eric Cummings writes for On Violence, a blog on military and foreign affairs, art, and violence, written by two brothers–one a soldier and the other a pacifist.

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21 Responses to “Post, Entry or Article?”

  • Lara

    I appreciate the conundrum. When I put up a piece of writing on my blog I typically call it a “post”, though I still inwardly cringe at that. Calling it a “post” feels a little demeaning, like what I’m writing isn’t as great just because it’s being read on MY blog, versus being read on an on-line journal, where it would technically be an article. As a writer I’d like the honor of calling everything I write an article, but maybe for the purpose of my little ol’ blog, it’ll be a post.

    An interesting topic and viewpoint, thank you!

  • Andy

    I would like to thank you for bringing this topic to light. It really made me think about the answer, which going by the literal translations for me means: if I write about a specific topic, in a detailed format I’d call it an article. If I were to write in a general matter, informaly, or casually I’d call it a post.

  • ShelleyD

    Great post, er..entry…I mean, article! I find myself in the same confusion. It’s comforting for someone like me to know that my confusion isn’t limited to a novice standing.

  • poch

    When my blog is informal, I use the term post or piece.
    I use ‘article’ when the piece is long and formal.
    Same applies to ‘alright’. (I agree that it’s wrong)
    If my piece is formal, I use ‘all right’.

  • sefcug

    I find myself going with Andy and poch on this one.

    Article for formal, and post for informal.

  • Emma

    I’m going to “me three” this …. that said, I find that quite a lot of people talk about their recent “blog” as well. That really grates on me! I see the blog as a whole, not the individual posts/entries/articles/whatevers.
    But, I suppose if you see adding to your blog as “blogging”, then a “blog” could be the individual item. But it doesn’t sound right to me.

  • Erik

    I think the author makes it more complex than it should be. Having been involved with BBSs for what seems decades, and following the orginal meaning of post as explained in this article, a blogger “posts” an article to, or makes an entry to their web site. The article may be short, or it may be long. What is submitted is not a post (noun).

    A post (noun) is typically a long piece of wood partially sunk in the ground. Although a post may be made of metal, or fiberglass, or …….

  • Eric C

    @ Lara – I agree that it feels demeaning. It is strange how connotation has so much to do with what we write.

    @ Andy – I think there is somethign to the formal vs. informal definition.

    @ Shelly D – Whats so funny is that i’ve never really seen this debate anywhere else, even though it feels like a common problem.

    @ Poch – interesting distinction, but that level of awareness for whom you are writing is really good.

    @ Emma – Totally agree, that does sound awkward to the ear.

  • Vic

    Shakespeare once said (and I’m paraphrasing from what I recall he said to me at the time), “An article by any other name may be called a post.”

    I think Will was trying to say that it doesn’t matter what it’s called as long as it is well-scribed with a sharpened quill, presence of mind and lips that are pursed in concentration.

    I’ve been a writer for more than 30 years and what I’ve seen on the Internet frightened me to the core at one point. People who are oblivious to punctuation, spelling, grammar and sentence structure are all having their say on blogs and comments sections. Yet on the other hand, there is also a plethora of witty, brilliant, clever and well-crafted articles that are deserving of prominence in the New Yorker or some other comparable publication of which the former group has never heard.

    In summation, there are terrible and fabulous articles, or blog posts. We can’t control the output or what people choose call it. If this makes you depressed, I would suggest drinking heavily.

  • Peter

    But, I suppose if you see adding to your blog as “blogging”, then a “blog” could be the individual item. But it doesn’t sound right to me.

    Nor me…”blog” is a corruption of “web-log”, and what you put in a log is an “entry”, so that’s clearly the right word, but perhaps the same technique that causes “web-log” to be read as “(we)blog” could apply, making it “(we-blo)gentry” — “gentry” with a hard “g”, not the way the dictionary says! 🙂

  • Michael C

    As a co-blogger with the writer, I loved this idea when Eric C brought it up. It isn’t so much of an issue that paralyzes you with fear, but an annoying gnat that makes you wonder what is the correct term? It may be a small point, but it is fun to discuss.

    I have said before, words mean something, and this debate feels important for our community.

  • Bhupat Rawal

    Post is a mechanical process of displaying; article is traditionally a balanced presentation on a specific topic/issue- a sort of critical analysis of the state of art with some objectivity sprinkled with subjective views of the author. Blog is a relatively new concept implying a log of something or some event/observation published electronically to express the author’s point of view-not necessarily with all the details of an entry in a journal. Akin to English subtitles in a foreign language movie, Blogs present a gist of a notion succinctly. In its own right, Blog could refer to simply as a log, like that of a ship’s captain.

  • Neal

    “Entry” should be for online journals/blogs
    “Post” should be used for very short content (2-3 paragraphs)
    “Article” should be used for large content on a specific subject.

    I call my writings on my website articles.

  • Eric C

    @ Vic – Very negative view, but I think lots of blogs are incredibly well written, and those tend to rise to the top.

    @ Peter – I agree with your point, but hasn’t blogging surpassed the simple journal form it came from?

    @ Neal – I think your succinct summary is one I could get behind.

  • Precise Edit

    When I add something to our WordPress blog, I hit the button for “new post.” I’m of the belief that a blog post is a type of article and that “article” is a more general term that includes several forms, including posts. So…all posts are articles, but not all articles are posts. On the other hand, when we release them for broad distribution and redistribution, we call them articles.

  • poch

    ‘…when we release them for broad distribution and redistribution, we call them articles.’

    I think that is indeed Precise edit!

  • Eric C

    @ precise edit – good point. I could see that logic.

  • Steve Hall

    I use “article” and “post” interchangeably, and I have yet to be accosted by the Internet police.

    I fear we are trying to make something of nothing with this debate, and I’m reminded of one of my favorite aphorisms: “Be careful what you ask for…you may just get it.” Rather than try to determine if an item (there’s another alternative!) posted to a blog is a post or an article, let’s simply keep on blogging.

  • Susan at Charm of the Carolines

    I enter posts on my blog. I also color in the lines. Hard to believe I really can be creative at times.

    Susan

  • Precise Edit

    Steve–I’m with you on this one. I almost didn’t add a comment (just couldn’t help myself, apparently). My first reaction was “um…and this is important why?” Then I got thinking about the logic behind word use, which is interesting to me.

    Why do we use the words we use? What do we actually mean when we use them?

    And most importantly…Will our readers understand what we mean?

    (I still think I’m right about posts being a form of article, though. /wink)

  • mailav

    Excellent post.I want to thank you for this

    informative read, I really appreciate sharing

    this great post. Keep up your work.

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