Wall of Text

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Shakespeare wrote that "brevity is the soul of wit." He did not then add "unless you're writing a webcomic." It applies to everything, and don't tell me you're arrogant enough to claim to know better than Shakespeare.
Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

A paragraph should ideally be a smooth, succinct experience that goes through a bit of exposition, illustrates an idea, sums up the point, and primes the reader for the next paragraph.

Ideally.

In practice, a writer can get too caught up in all the things they have to say and fail to organize it all into bits an ordinary human being would be able to digest. The end result is a huge run-on paragraph that makes it difficult to recall the original point of it, if there was one in the first place. The reader's eyes glaze over and all they see is a Wall of Text.

This afflicts all written media, but it is particularly infamous for its effect on Comic Books. One of the first things learned in comics is how to use dialogue bubbles effectively; a writer not allocating space carefully will end up covering their panel with a bunch of text and white space. Eventually the reader will realize that they're just looking at plain text rather than the vivid form of storytelling by imagery that comic books are famed for.

At best, a Wall of Text is just a signal of really heavy exposition. At worst, they are a warning sign that the author is soapboxing about something.

If Speech Bubbles Interruption are used to show it's not being listened to, see Wall of Blather. If the text is literally written on a wall in-universe, it might be a Room Full of Crazy. See Read the Fine Print if these kinds of text actually contain very important information. Ominous Multiple Screens is sort-of the video equivalent.

Examples of Wall of Text include:

Advertising[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Parodied in the Mac ad Legal Copy when PC starts making claims about his performance, causing a disclaimer to appear on-screen. Said disclaimer becomes bigger and bigger throughout the commercial, ending with PC saying "PCs are now 100% trouble-free!" causing the disclaimer to fill the whole screen.


Comics[edit | hide]

  • The short-lived comic Warrior, based on pro wrestler The Ultimate Warrior, was filled from cover to cover with walls of text, much of it consisting of incomprehensible, made-up jargon. Much of the text centers on Warrior's strange pseudo-philosophy that nearly makes Time Cube look sane by comparison. To see just how crazy and nonsensical it is, almost to the point it is hard to believe it could exist, see The Spoony Experiment's review of it. Making it worse was that sometimes it was printed in font colors that were unreadable on the background color. The sheer volume of text and its insane, babbling nature really can't be overstated here. There's a text box for the crazy narrator, a text box for "Warrior"'s crazy inner monologue, and then thought bubbles for "Warrior"'s crazy thoughts. It amounts to, at minimum, a good 4-5 paragraphs per page...
    • In the same tradition (though more tongue-in-cheek, obviously) Chris Sims of the Invincible super-blog does a feature he calls Warrior Wisdom Fridays that feature one of Ultimate Warrior's characteristically incoherent Wall Of Text rants, plus a hilarious Alt Text haiku summary.
  • Dave Sim's Cerebus went beyond the Walls of Text and into chronic Author Filibuster when the comic itself was repeatedly put on hold to make space for multi-page misogynistic rants of plain text. It does get over that phase eventually,[1] then later falls back into it.
  • A dreadful example: Tintin in America. Hergé shocked Europe with this thing. Now almost everyone knows text walls are pure evil.
  • Don Rosa's earlier works (particularly The Pertwillaby Papers) had tight-packed expository speech bubbles. Not so much in his Disney comics, though; the "Disney remakes" of his stories are a good example of how one can thin the information flow without really affecting the net amount of information conveyed to the reader.
  • The online archive of the surreal Brown University newspaper comic Burble is fully aware of its large bits of dialogue; despite its high quality compared to most other strips at the time, it was mocked (and later self-mocked) for "too many words".
  • Peanuts once lampshaded it by having Linus, after a vast amount of talk, comment to Charlie Brown that a contemporary complaint is that there's far too much talking and not enough action in comic strips.
  • Mallard Fillmore often doesn't even draw the character's body, instead crowding piles and piles of text around a floating disembodied head.
  • One issue of Howard the Duck was 22 pages of text-with-an-illustration of Steve Gerber apologizing for not having a fully-formed comic ready for publication that month.
  • EC Comics had a pattern: the dialogue was put on the page before the artwork was. The writer would occasionally write his script directly onto the storyboards as he came up with it. This often meant that around 90% of the panel was pure text, with the art shoehorned into what was left. Some comics would end with a panel that was nothing but text to explain the story.
    • The exception are the stories that Harvey Kurtzman drew, as well as the ones he wrote and storyboarded for other artists.
  • The Thrawn Trilogy comic series doesn't quite go to those extremes, but since it's a very Compressed Adaptation, there are quite a few pages full of text. Take a look.
  • Jeremy "Norm" Scott's Hsu and Chan comics can get VERY wordy at times. While the walls scare off new readers, fans of the series will usually claim that Norm's style of humor justifies the intense word count. The comic's creator is aware of the wordiness of his comics and likes to joke about it constantly on his website.

Norm: (about the issue Deep) Oddly enough, nobody complained about the wordiness in THIS comic. It's possible nobody ever made it to the end.

  • The comic adaptation of The Stand basically takes most of the narration from the really long book and puts it in dialogue boxes over the action as it is happening.
  • In Mafalda, each time Susanita starts telling gossip about the neighbours her speech bubble becomes a Wall of Text. On one occasion Felipe's body gets covered in text, until Manolito "saves him" by arriving and greeting them, breaking the flow of gossip.
  • In Justice Society of America, vol 3, issue 1, a wall of text is used to show just how much Cyclone talks.
  • Parodied in Asterix as you have never seen him before. Asterix delivers a barrage of verbiage that occupies three quarters of the panels and ends up putting Obelix to sleep.
  • The problem has been endemic long enough in the comics industry to make famous one particular work offering a way to patch it: "Wally Wood's 22 Panels That Always Work, or Some Interesting Ways to Get Some Variety into Those Boring Panels Where Some Dumb Writer Has a Bunch of Lame Characters Sitting Around and Talking for Page After Page!"
  • In a recent interview, celebrated comic scribe Larry Hama, a penciler turned writer, observed that the format of Marvel Comics' books in the 1970s and early 1980s was often guilty of this, bemoaning the overuse of captions. "You'd have a caption covering 3/4 of a panel, describing the content of the panel it was covering!"
  • German comic Rudi is (in)famous for this and sometimes lampshades it.
  • Justified in American Splendor, as the story is less about the pictures and more about character dialog and Harvey Pekar's inner monologue.


Films -- Live-Action[edit | hide]

  • In the documentary Crumb, Robert Crumb flips through his brother's old amateur comics to show the brother's mental breakdown. With each page, the drawings become more and more pushed back by larger and larger bubbles crammed with text, until finally the drawings are discarded and Crumb is just flipping through page after page of microscopic text. It's quite creepy.
  • The opening crawl of Alone in the Dark.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Works from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries tended towards this, with paragraphs that sometimes ran for pages; remodeling these walls for modern printings isn't an option, however, since they were frequently single sentences with dozens of clauses and semicolon cancer out the wazu, preventing stylistic renovations without violating rules against line breaks in the middle of a sentence.
    • A lot of this came from the fact that some works were published in periodicals, and the authors were paid by the word or line. The endless single sentence was usually a clever trick to avoid having their stories (and their paychecks) cut down, since cutting part of a sentence can be tricky.
  • The novel The Rotter's Club has a sentence that is apparently 13,955 words long.
  • Most people's first impression of The Bible.
  • The book Ulysses ends with two sentences in its final chapter. The first one is 11,281 words long and the second is 12,931 words long.
  • Nobel prize Jose Saramago loved to to this, do not try to imitate him, he got a nobel for a reason.
  • The literary style of maximalism emphasizes the author writing down everything that crosses his/her mind in the interest of painting a more "complete" picture of the author's/character's mindset.
  • JRR Tolkien
  • Defied in Who Cut the Cheese? by Stilton Jarlsberg. Ho considers making a poster after one incident but drops it after realizing the message would be too long to fit his template.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • One Whose Line Is It Anyway? "Let's Make a Date" game gave Wayne a very complicated role to play (something pretty close to "smooth rap star blindfolded and tied to the bed by his girlfriend gradually realizing the night is going terribly wrong"). When Greg saw the card (about 8"x8"), his reaction was a stunned "There's two paragraphs of text on this!"
    • The guessing-game personalities when Whose Line started in Britain were extremely simple ("a pirate," etc.), and gradually became longer and more convoluted over the next 18 seasons.


Manga[edit | hide]

  • The Death Note manga can be particularly guilty of this at times. In the later volumes of the manga, the characters spend a ton of time out-thinking each other in a 3-way cat-and-mouse game, and all of the text used for that can be jarring, even though it's essential. To make it worse, it's complex enough that, if you blink and miss a crucial detail, you're totally lost.
  • As a self-styled modern day Sherlock Holmes, Detective Conan more often than not feature walls (and walls and walls) of text while pulling the thread to reveal who did it. Kindaichi can be just as wordy, but he at least has the courtesy to break up his walls of text.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima often falls into this, and even plays this one for comedy once, having Yue go off on lengthy Expospeak tangents only to discover no one was listening.
    • Hakase also goes into a long rant with a speech bubble the size of your fist filled with tiny writing where she babbles to herself about Chachamaru's emotions.
    • Also when a scared-stiff Yue described the various impossibilities of the really, really big dragon wyvern that was just about to eat her and Nodoka, ending with, "wait, what am I saying?"
  • Medaka Box's Emukae has a whole double page spread, consisting of 4 massive text bubbles the size of your hand, going on and on about how she wants to marry Hitoyoshi and have babies with him and have a nice big house and some pets and...
  • The Moyashimon manga features truly stupendous examples every single volume, complete with shrinking fonts, characters crowded into tiny gaps between speech bubbles, and explanatory notes in page gutters. These are usually Professor Itsuki indulging in a Character Filibuster about science, or more specifically fermentation.
  • Liar Game is mostly a story about chessmasters who try to beat each other in different "games" to see who is the best Magnificent Bastard. To do so, they use gambits after gambits based on game theories, psychology, economics, social studies and more. While they take the time to explain everything clearly, a certain knowledge of these subjects greatly helps to understand.
  • Played for Laughs in a Soul Eater extra chapter (later adapted into an anime Breather Episode) with Excalibur giving another rambling story which takes up half a page that the author specifically tells us to skip because it's so annoying.
  • Level E contains a couple examples of this. And yes, you have to read it all (or at least skim it) to understand the plot that is going on.

New Media[edit | hide]

  • Happens on The Other Wiki occasionally, more in the obscure-ish pages than others. Plot summaries can fall into this trap, especially if it gets overly detailed.
  • RPers in text chat based media (SL, IRC, Instant Messaging, Etc) will often call others out (Often jokeingly) on Walls of text. Happens most often when you get people who like long posts mixed with people who make short posts. Often happens in the reverse as well if others harassing people in a more harsh way for posts that aren't long enough.


Print Media[edit | hide]

  • An audiophile magazine featured an article lamenting the overuse of compression—making the louds quieter and the quiets louder to even out the dynamic range of a recording. (There's even a term for it, it's "Loudness War".) Compression is useful for "punching up" the sound of a given track, since it evens out the dynamics and lets an engineer raise the volume without causing clipping. However, some modern recordings go a bit overboard with this. THE ARTICLE THEN PROCEEDED TO DEMONSTRATE THE PROBLEM OF EXCESSIVE COMPRESSION WITH A PARAGRAPH WRITTEN ENTIRELY WITH ALLCAPS AND AS FEW LINE BREAKS AS POSSIBLE. GIVEN THAT ALL CAPITAL LETTERS ARE THE SAME HEIGHT, IT MAKES FOR ONE LONG MASS OF LETTERS THAT BECOME HARD TO READ THROUGH AND TIRES THE EYE OUT FROM HAVING TO MENTALLY SORT IT OUT AND INSERT LINE BREAKS. SIMILARLY, COMPRESSING EVERYTHING TO DEATH ELIMINATES THE DYNAMIC INTERPLAY OF THE VARIOUS INSTRUMENTS AND CREATES A MUDDLE WHERE EVERYTHING IS LOUD BUT NOTHING STANDS OUT, LIKE SOMEONE SHOUTING OVER A STRONG WIND. DYNAMIC INTERPLAY IS A KEY PART OF A LISTENABLE RECORDING: MOST POP MUSIC RECORDINGS TEND TO FOCUS ON VOCALS FIRST, FOLLOWED BY MELODIC ACCOMPANIMENT AND THE RHYTHM SECTION IS UNDERNEATH IT ALL TO SERVE AS A FOUNDATION UPON WHICH THE REST OF THE SONG IS PLACED, AND IT SHOULD BE APPARENT YET UNOBTRUSIVE; TO DO OTHERWISE MAKES IT SOUND BAD. NEVERTHELESS, THIS TECHNIQUE IS APPARENTLY MANDATED BY SUITS AT THE LABELS WHO BELIEVE THAT, SINCE IT MAKES THINGS SOUND LOUDER, IT WILL MAKE THEIR SONGS STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD ON THE RADIO, SORT OF LIKE HOW TV COMMERCIALS ARE LOUDER THAN REGULAR PROGRAMMING. UNFORTUNATELY, THIS LINE OF THINKING HAS TWO MAJOR FLAWS: IT CREATES AN UNLISTENABLE AMORPHOUS BLOB OF AUDIO THAT PEOPLE DO NOT WANT TO HEAR AND WHEN EVERYONE ELSE DOES THE EXACT SAME THING, NOBODY'S UNLISTENABLE AMORPHOUS BLOB OF AUDIO STANDS OUT ABOVE ANYONE ELSE'S. The metaphor proved to be a bit too apt, as the magazine then received a ton of letters to the editor complaining that they couldn't read the article because it was, well, a wall of text.
  • Textbooks. Some college texts books that are literally solid walls of text that go for pages with no pictures, diagrams, or even paragraph breaks. And the text is usually really tiny.
  • Manual pages for Linux/Unix commands are notorious for this.
  • European Spanish magazines and newspapers tends to be more wordier than their Latin American counterparts, since Spaniards loves detailed explanations. On the other side, Mexican ones (with few exceptions) tends to be briefer and trying to get to the point faster than the Spaniard ones.


Video Games[edit | hide]

Wall of Text crits you for 9999 damage.
You cannot use that power after you have been defeated.
You cannot use that power after you have been defeated.

  • This happens on other forums as well: on World of Warcraft's official forums, people use TL;DR (Too long; didn't read) both offensively and defensively; someone building a wall of text will add "TL;DR version: Stuff", and people protesting will post just TL;DR. Sometimes people will lampshade their own wall building; one added "Edit: Remodeled Wall of Text, adding a door, a couple of windows and some nice flowerboxes" after breaking it up into paragraphs.
    • But this can also be subverted when readers simply didn't bother to read a long post. "TL;DR" can basically mean: "Your well thought out, and valid post was just too long to read, so I didn't bother."
  • A literal wall of text appears in The Neverhood as the hall of Records, several screens full of text for Klaymen to read, detailing the game's vast backstory in a format spoofing that of The Bible. Fortunately, reading any of the text is optional, although the game does force you to trek through the entire hall to fetch a Plot Coupon.
    • Several? There are thirty-eight screens of text (and one with just a huge picture) you have to walk across! And each screen has 7 columns of text!
  • Sacred 2: Fallen Angel doesn't have extensive voice acting for many of its NPCs. In particular, NPCs that give you quests (which usually boil down to go here and kill five wolves), will preface this with a page and a half of scrolled text detailing exactly why they want you to this. And if you're not playing on an HDTV, you won't be able to read a word of it.
  • In one stage of Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 2, Gatchan lets off two consecutive blocks of texts so big that they obscure your vision. Taken Up to Eleven in Maximum Tune 3 and its upgrades, where not only does he have four blocks of text, he has the gall to say them NEAR THE END OF THE STAGE, making you more likely to lose.
  • In the early text-based game Colossal Cave, the description of the volcano.
  • In Fate/stay night, Kotomine and Rin are prone to expository lectures, Kotomine describing the functions and history of the Grail Wars, Rin less frequently on the mechanics of magic. Many Chekovs Guns have been obscured in the pages of pages of text, and the voice-acted version hardly saved them. This was impatiently Lampshaded by Shirou's internal monologue in the final arc: "Doesn't he ever shut up?"
  • It is apparently a popular joke in Touhou Project doujinshi to have Nitori or someone else go to lengthy descriptions (usually of technology) to the other characters wo more likely than not are not actually listening. One doujin parodied it by having Alice get pushed against a wall by the huge speech bubble.
  • When Rin in Katawa Shoujo starts rambling, it's shown in the largest and fullest textbox in the game. With barely if any punctuation.
  • In Minecraft, due to the lack of usable books or notes (Until 1.3), most downloadable scenarios, public servers, etc. will leave introductory text written on signs attached to walls near the initial spawn point. This results in literal walls of text.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

Warning: The following comic contains a lot of words. Those who are frightened or intimidated by reading are encouraged to seek entertainment elsewhere. We recommend a shiny ball of foil.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Broken Saints is a web series best described as an animated comic book with music (and on the DVD, voiceovers!). Because it is animated, it is able to avert this by staying on one frame while the speech bubbles fade in and out, allowing for more economy of space. Which is especially nice because the characters in Broken Saints talk a lot.
  • I have SuperNatural Wisdom. NO God mentality can Know my 4 Day Cube. No Bible Word equals my TimeCubed Earth. -- Dr. Gene Ray, Cubic and Wisest Human
  • The posts that Sean Malstrom has on his blog tend to vary in length, but when they get long, they get long. As in, upwards of 14,000 words. He sometimes posts several of these in one day.
  • The Black Sand Bar, full stop. [1]
  • Geek Rage has this as its basic mode.
  • The Global Guardians PBEM Universe was a set of email campaigns, and some of the player's were very enthusiastic participants. This happened a lot.
  • The Onion's articles Nation Shudders at Large Block of Uninterrupted Text and Frustrated Obama Sends Nation Rambling 75,000-Word E-Mail
  • Video game blogger Tim Rogers is infamous for producing these, and in fact takes pride in it. If pressed to justify his extreme verbosity, his explanations vary from "it's just trolling" to "it's a legitimate style and you can take it or leave it".


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Inverted in The Simpsons, where the quote at the top of the page is reduced to "Brevity is [...] wit" at a Reader's Digest essay contest.
  • Discussed in an episode of Chowder where the title character tries to publish a magazine whose cover cosists of one of these and is genuinely shocked to learn that a cover with a picture is more likely to attract potential buyers.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Due to outdated equipment that attempts to save on memory and bandwidth, official messages within the U.S. Coast Guard (and possibly other branches of the military) tend to be eye-crossing, migraine-creating, acronym-laden all-caps nightmares.
    • Here's a sample from one (imagine trying to read multiple pages of this): SUBJ: REVISED CUTTER FUEL INVENTORY REPORT REQUIREMENTS A. SUPPLY POLICY AND PROCEDURES MANUAL, COMDTINST M4400.19 1. PURPOSE: ACCURATELY REPORTING FUEL CONSUMPTION IS AN IMPORTANT ELEMENT TO ENSURING ALL OBLIGATIONS AND EXPENDITURES ARE RECORDED IN THE COAST GUARD FINANCIAL SYSTEM, A VITAL STEP IN ACHIEVING CFO AUDIT SUCCESS. THIS MESSAGE UPDATES THE STANDARDIZED FUEL REPORT MESSAGE FORMAT AND PROVIDES SUGGESTIONS TO REDUCE COMMON REPORTING ERRORS. IT ALSO ESTABLISHES NEW LINE ITEMS IN THE REPORT TO INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING MONTH'S ESTIMATED FUEL CONSUMPTION, WHICH WILL ASSIST IN IMPROVING THE ACCURACY OF COAST GUARD FINANCIAL STATEMENTS, END OF YEAR PIPELINE, AND CFO AUDIT COMPLIANCE. EVERY EFFORT WAS MADE TO ENSURE REPORTING REQUIREMENTS MINIMIZE, TO THE EXTENT POSSIBLE, IMPACT TO CUTTER WORKLOAD.
  • Every last usage license agreement. Ever. Including the one that is the picture at the time of this writing.
  • UNIX manual pages.
  • The incoherent, babbling, jargon-filled mess that is the job description critiqued in this blog article, and it isn't exactly helped by some of the worst grammar to ever exist in something that was supposed to attract people to the job: three full stops in the entire block of text, random capitalisation and abuse of apostrophes. This borderline Word Salad was more likely to have put people off applying than it was to generate recruits.

Zola the Gorgon (commenter on blog): "I think someone wrote this ad by running a mission statement generator (e.g. http://www.isms.org.uk/mission... and cutting and pasting all the results into a solid block of text until they met their wordcount."

  1. the walls of text, not the misogyny