NEW author's Note: Farewell, Wired. It won't be the same, coming from NYC. 6/98

This was originally published in the New Haven Advocate in December of 1996.

Author’s note: Believe it or not, I’m actually interested in what happens to Wired magazine and its endeavors. Demographically and culturally, I should be one of Them, to Their way of Thinking. But I’m not one of Them, so either I’m just weird or They have made a phenomenally expensive miscalculation. In any case, Josh, my editor, loves it when I pick on Wired, and I enjoy obliging him.

Dissecting Wired Style

by Jeff Schult


Wired, n. :

There is no listing for Wired in Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age, which is astonishing: the self-proclaimed arbiters of taste, sensibility and culture for the digerati missed an opportunity for self-definition.

Perhaps it’s just as well, in a year that began with such promise for would-be Masters of the Universe Louis Rossetto, Nicholas Negroponte, et. al.: their award-winning magazine with the tres funky graphics was booming, Hotwired was genuinely hot and investors were salivating: These guys were going to be gazillionaires. Two failed initial public offerings later, Wired Ventures is hemorrhaging money and laying off the 20-somethings who thought they were going to rule the world.

Now, incredibly, they’ve discovered … books.

Remember those? Apparently the Wired folks had almost forgotten – how else would one explain the following, unembarrassed quote from Peter Rutten, publisher at Hardwired, the foundering empire’s new, non-digitized baby:

"HardWired was created because books are an unparalleled medium for the delivery of high-thought content."

Yes, they’re still clearly thinking Big Thoughts in San Francisco. Gutenberg may have had them in the 15th century, but you’ve got to give them credit for trying.

Hardwired’s first offering, Mind Grenades: Manifestos from the Future, was a collection of either the best or worst of Wired, depending on your feelings for the magazine: a collection of pithy quotes, swathed in the trademark look of the magazine. It is a big, eye-catching book, easy to pick up, easy to put down; just the thing to grace the coffee table of the average, $104,000-annual-income white male Wired subscriber.

Wired Style is a teensy-weensy little book, but far more pretentious and irritating than Mind Grenades. It is meant as a definitive style guide for English usage in the brave new Digital Age, and with it in your hip pocket, you, too, can dash off catchy sentences like "At Wired, we celebrate writing that jacks us into the soul of a new society," just as though you were a pompous cybergeek from San Francisco. Goodbye, Strunk and White; Hello, Wired Rulez (sic.)

According to some back jacket copy, there are only a few types of people who shouldn’t read the little tome: among these types are "those who just don’t care about whether prose thrives in the electronic age" and "those who are convinced their minds will burst if they read even one more interesting idea." So if you don’t hustle right out and get a copy, the Wiredfolk just won’t respect your intellect. How else will you know how to translate, say, chat room idiom:

"R U a grrrl?"

Or, to get a little more esoteric, will you know what to do when you run across a "viral meme?" (n. Contagious idea. Infection of the mind. Unit of Cultural Inheritance.)

Chapter titles will send language purists either screaming from a room or into paroxysms of laughter, are offered here with translations:

  1. "Voice is Paramount:" (Talk like us.)
  2. "Be Elite:" (Write like us.)
  3. "Transcend the Technical:" (We’ll understand.)
  4. "Capture the Colloquial:" (We’ll pretend to understand.)
  5. "Anticipate the Future:" (We know best.)
  6. "Screw the Rules:" (We make them up anyway.)
  7. "Grok the Media:" (We read Heinlein.)
  8. "Go Global:" (You know, like global, you know?)
  9. "Acronyms, FWIW" (More fun than ig-pay atin-lay.)

In other words, the pretension is insufferable. IMNSHO, these pomo propellerheads need new wetware transplants, a Siliwood scenario. (Yes, that is a possible literate sentence, using Wired Style, including the acronym for "In My Not-So-Humble Opinion." And pomo means "post-modern," you dweeb.)

Of course, these are the people who can write, for real, "Does English have boundaries in the global village? What are the rules to colloquialism in a post-mass-media society? As the Digital Revolution moves through our lives "like a Bengali typhoon" how do we deal with the dramatic changes in English that follow in its wake?"


The astonishing thing is, the same people who can produce that kind of insufferable bombast are also responsible for printing some of the best, most thoughtful, most readable journalism there is today. The December issued of Wired contains a 62-page opus by one Neal Stephenson, who "ventures forth as hacker tourist across the wide and wondrous space of three continents, on an epic quest to lay the longest wire on earth. On his way, he comes into contact with myriad cultures, people, corporations, and technologies that make a project of this scale possible."

And the goods are there, to back up the promo. Stephenson’s piece is terrific. Of course, it’s in there next to the details of how to make gross drinks from the ‘50s and ads for $10,000 speaker systems. And on Hotwired ( recently we had some of the best commentary on the web running next to stories on acupuncture for pets.

Wired, n. An early digital threshing machine that was never quite able to separate wheat and chaff.


To Home ...