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, 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.
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.
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.