Medium + message
Here's a quick and rambling post on the topic of style and substance. I just read a somewhat nasty comment on a blog that I frequent and it got me thinking about style. The flagrant comment focussed solely on the writers style, and in my opinion, missed much of the points the writer was trying to present.
Form, function? Whatever...
When I think of form vs. function issue (or is it function vs. form?), I tend to lean towards function as being the more important of the two for me. This is because so many things don't hold up to the test of time these days, and it bothers me when things just don't work or function well and do the very thing they are meant to do in the first place. If something looks great and is aesthetically pleasing and all that stuff but doesn't work, what's the point? I like dependable products and I don't mind fixing them when they fail to deliver because of normal use. When I'm constantly fixing things to just get 'em to work, it bothers me. It's about efficiency. It's about design.
Form = Style, delivery, medium
Function = Substance, purpose, message
So what's the 'dilly'?
Obviously, it's really nice when something functions well and has a great design in terms of it's look and feel, or aesthetic. I love the phrase, "we can deliver it with quality, on time, or on budget: but you can only pick two of the three." Like many people, I need to pay attention to the cost when buying things, but oftentimes I don't mind having to spend more for a better product. I like it when things last. I don't care for cheap products and many times I wait to buy an item when I can afford to pay for the superior product because it's more likely to do what it's designed to do and be dependable, and also stand the test of time with proper use.
Benefit of doubt
Folks are busy. It seems people are less willing to give others the "benefit of the doubt" these days. We live in a "heated" era where every word is often scrutinized and the point is frequently overlooked. This is an example of style over substance. The scrutiny is focused on the style rather than the substance – it's when you can't get past the delivery to see the underlying substance. Presentation and delivery (form) is important.
The concepts and ideas are what draw me to certain blogs, twitter tweets, and other web stuff on a regular basis. The writer's "voice" is much like adding some salt & pepper to a well made dish – it adds flavor. A writer's style helps distinguish the work from others. It can be playful and fun. It can draw the reader in to deeper aspects of the message. It makes things more memorable as well.
Mix it up
I like when a writer uses a colloquial or "tongue in cheek" style. It's even better when a command of language is demonstrated as well, and the two are mixed together, much like a good ballet. It's a sprinkling of style among the substance. I'm even willing to overlook a few typos and errors here and there... I try not to let the style get in the way of the purpose.
Maybe I'm getting older (or seasoned), but I prefer to take things in stride. I try to enjoy the ride, even when it's a bumpy one. I keep it "slow and steady" with the hope of going farther. I'd rather be a little forgiving than not. Go ahead, mix it in...