The 3 Layers of Text
We do a lot of writing at PTC for our clients. Between maintaining SEO and managing the Social Media of many, many clients, we have to put writing content at the top of the list of importance. It’s because of this that we have to also emphasize how important the content of the text is. Much like the desserts I love this time of year, the writing I enjoy the most has layers. In writing (not dessert) I specifically enjoy the text, the subtext, and the metatext. Each has its place in different mediums: print, formal digital writing, and blog posts. When writing, it is important to consider all three levels and if your piece is the place for it.
Text is exactly what it sounds like. It is the printed (or digital) ink on the page. It is the plot, the thesis, the jokes, or the drama. It is the craft- the diction, the sentence structure, even the punctuation. This is what we learn first, and as writers, it is the place we spend the most time perfecting.
In creative writing this is where writers spend time crafting their styles. In journalistic type writing, the text should follow specific structures and forms. Publishers and industries have their own style guides that need to be adhered to.
The subtext is all the story that is told between the lines. In narrative, it is the theme or the unspoken understanding between characters. It is as much about what is not said as to what is said, and a good writer will be judicious about what they don’t say. When crafted carefully, the reader will recognize what is not there but should be.
In journalism, it is important to not provide subtext because the text itself is so important. Subtext is implicit, so anything not reported on should not be consider an implication of something else. For example, journos often note if a person did not comment on the story because to not include the lack of comment or detail would be a disservice to the pursuit of explicit on record truth.
Finally, the metatext is the part of the piece that comments on the piece itself. Or in some cases, the author breaks the fourth wall with comments about the process of writing or the author herself. This became immensely popular in post-modern writing as authors became remarkably aware of themselves, reader, and critics. It was a more complex way of engaging the audience while pulling back the curtain to the mind of the author. Metatext can be explicitly self-referential, or it can be characters and plot devices that reference real life experiences that all would be aware of.
In non-creative writing, this is more prevalent in the blogosphere when authors make purposeful allusions to their own experience in relationship to the subject. Whether it is discussing the arts, food, sports, or current events, because the digital space is unlimited and also not considered “of record” to the same degree that traditional print spaces (and their digital arms) are, metatext is a place to reveal more depth to the story.
It can reveal biases or seek to engage the biases so readers are aware the author knows their own perspective and can write with it in mind. In some ways it seeks to engage the subject beyond the facts and write from a world view with honesty.
When utilizing each layer of text, it is important to consider the outlet and audience. Text is great in a blog, but it may not keep the reader’s attention (kind of like now? See what I did there??). While in more formal writing, meta text can pull the reader out of the story while adding nothing to it.
PTC Computer Solutions advises businesses on technology that might help their interests. If your business is interested in getting ahead of the competition, contact us for more on how to use technology to your advantage. It’s what we do.
David WB Parker is a principal of Parker Associates of Jacksonville, Florida, marketing consultants to the real estate industry; President of PTC Computer Solutions, IT Specialist, and an active real estate sales professional with Barclay’s Real Estate Group based in Jacksonville, FL. He can be reached at 904-607-8763 or via email email@example.com.