Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hyperbole and a Half

Hyperbole and a Half is a blog written and maintained by a woman in her mid-twenties named Allie. Like many bloggers, Allie uses her site to tell stories from her childhood and daily life. All of these blog posts involve Allie’s witty sense of humor and, as the title suggests, she incorporates hyperbole into that humor. While she never states who a specific audience her writing may be intended for, and due to its location on the internet anyone may be a possible reader, it seems as if she primarily reaches to female readers of a similar age range. Allie’s blog post “This is Why I’ll Never be an Adult” accurately portrays the Plain Style of writing, but she also uses some advanced language and word play in her moments of hyperbole—the use of exaggerated language to prove a point. Instead of excluding certain readers, like in the Official Style, however, Allie’s word choice is generally self-explanatory and serves to add to her reader’s experience. In this post, Allie explains the self-destructive cycle she enters every few months when she decides she’s ready to become a “responsible adult”. Every time, though, she grows over-confident with herself and ends up spiraling back into her reclusive, immature behavior. To go along with the text, she includes child-like self-drawn images created in a computer program to depict some of the situations she describes. While Allie does use some higher level language to serve her use of hyperbole, the comedic and natural style of her writing counteracts that, along with her hand-drawn cartoons, to create an approachable piece of text for her audience.
With an average grade level of 9.6 and a Reading Ease of 60.2, this blog entry exemplifies a Plain Style text. It’s filled with short sentences that get to the point: “But a few times a year, I spontaneously decide that I'm ready to be a real adult. I don't know why I decide this; it always ends terribly for me. But I do it anyway” (3). Along with basic language like this, Allie also writes in an active first person. This form of writing is more inclusive than passive third person; it’s conversational and invites the reader in. As an online blog, Allie has the capabilities of reaching to any kind of audience member with an internet connection, but practically speaking not every internet-goer will visit her site. Instead, she has managed to find an approach that does appeal to a wide range of readers but still maintains relatability with those that do closely follow her posts.
Where the blog entry does stray from the traditions of Plain Style writing is the occasional use of advanced word choice and long-winded sentences. Judging by the title of the blog—Hyperbole and a Half—though, it becomes clear that Allie uses this on purpose, to create comically ridiculous ideas for her readers: “I have repeatedly discovered that it is important for me not to surpass my capacity for responsibility.  Over the years, this capacity has grown, but the results of exceeding it have not changed. Normally, my capacity is exceeded gradually, through the accumulation of simple, daily tasks” (1, 2). Paired alongside the humorous nature of her blog topics and childish drawings, this style of writing does its job of adding comedy from the over-exaggeration, rather than preventing lower-level readers from understanding. 

This photo has become so famous that it is now used as a popular “meme” across the internet.

Allie is not trying to make fun of her readers by using this language; rather, she is using it to make fun of herself. Instead of alienating readers, she invites them join in making fun of her and themselves.
Allie not only writes invitingly, she actually gives them the opportunity to participate. At the bottom of her blog entry is a section where readers may post comments or questions on the daily post. This not only allows for reader interaction with the author, but with other readers as well. Several posts include varying comments with the same overall message: “I do the same thing.” It’s another way this blog goes against the Official Style, which purposely exclude certain readers. Using a comment section shows that Allie is not only aware of her readers, she’s encouraging them to reach out to her and make a contribution. One commenter posted: “This is me, all the time, every day. It’s nice to know I’m not alone! I think we might not be the only ones!” Many of the comments are in similar vein to this one, and readers post that they can relate to her stories or that they found humor in what she was talking about. This blog not only creates a relationship between readers and author, but allows for a sense of community amongst the readers themselves.
In a day where we’re constantly surrounded by the Official Style, it’s nice to take a break and actually enjoy something we’re reading. Allie’s blog Hyperbole and a Half is a breath of fresh air when it comes to writing and self-expression. Her writing is clear and natural, with a splash of smart humor and hyperbole. Along with clever pictures and the option for readers to interact, Allie’s use of Plain Style writing in “This is Why I’ll Never be an Adult” creates a piece for her blog followers, and the occasional visitor passing through, to read and enjoy.

Mandi Janikowski

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