Sunday, August 02, 2009

There's a saying...


...among those of us who have been or are still in the news business: "Anyone who says they love to write isn't writing anything all that great."

Now that I'm also an editor, I have found this saying to be doubly true.

What I don't understand - and I'm sorry if this sounds bitchy, but oh well - is why people try to do something professionally, over and over again, that they're not meant to do. Something they have no talent for.

Case in point: I am not, and will never be, talented with math. Ergo, I am not an accountant.

Writing is one of the only fields where the truly untalented think they're the greatest new thing, isn't it? OK, maybe art as well, but for writing, I think it's more obvious. When I worked for a publishing company, it was always the worst writers who were 1) the most demanding, and 2) the most impressed with themselves. In my experience, the truly good (and even the great) writers I have met are not arrogant and even tend to doubt themselves. Fireblossom, who is the greatest poet I have ever read, is very modest.

So because - if I forgot to mention this - I do editing for a site as a volunteer, here are a few tips I'd LOVE to have some writers follow:

1. DO NOT send your article in with a note that says anything to the effect of, "This could use some cleaning up," or "this could use some editing." I have a feeling that within the first sentence of reading, I'll be thinking, "No shit!" I do this for free. Send me your best effort, please.

2. There is one space after each sentence. END OF STORY!

3. Don't use "Canadian English" as an excuse for not being grammatically accurate. Canadian bacon is different - not the entire language.

4. For the love of god, use spellcheck. If you know how to use a computer, surely you can figure this out.

5. Learn how to use semicolons, dashes, and commas. Correctly.

6. When the required word count is 300, don't send me 150. This is like ordering at a restaurant and having half of your food show up.

7. Learn how to use capitals correctly. Didn't you ever watch Sesame Street? Do you need a muppet to sponsor the letter of the day to figure this out?

8. Don't hand me an article with a sentence that is SO bad that it could actually be entered into a bad sentence contest, because I'll just be forced to cry.

9. Please don't use the word "whimsical" more than once in the same paragraph. It just makes me want to gag.

10. If you can't handle these simple rules, do us all a favor: quit writing, and try your luck as an accountant.

18 comments:

ZIRGAR said...

Amen. And personally, I don't know why I even bother writing at all except that I can't not do it. It's almost as if I have nothing to say but I have the need to say it nevertheless.

Claire said...

Heh. I was nodding along with most of those, but I do double space after full stops (sorry!! Born of years of British academia, where it's the form). Then again, I'm not a writer, so hopefully it's a less heinous crime. :-)

Cxx

PS Now I'm going to go check out Fireblossom's work - thanks for the tip!

G said...

Me thinks that you got a major dose of annoyance over the past few weeks or so.

Love it when you (or anyone else involved in the field of writing) have to point out the incredibly obvious to people.

The same basic rules can apply in all endeavors, not just writing.

My personal faves will always be like #6, which is saying "learn how to read and comprehend. if it says 300, give me 300."

Or in my world, if it says "tell me when your class ends", don't tell me when you graduate. It's not the same thing.

Fireblossom said...

your right. wen I right something wimsical eye try to always right it write. cept wen it is canadian then i keep saying eh eh eh? and how aboot dem blackhawks.

Seriously, thank you so much for the very kind mention, Twin! I belong to a poetry forum, where I used to post my stuff before I had my blog, and it drives me insane how people will post "poetry" with no line breaks, no indentations, no spaces, and no spellcheck.

(((((((((((Twin)))))))))))

Sidhe said...

These people must belong to the same breed that often tell me that they'd like to have my job when I ask them what kind of job they could see themselves doing. Yup, if you are seeking my assistance for employment you are not qualified to assist others...

The Peach Tart said...

Thanks for sharing.

Dawn said...

#2 is a problem. Well, first of all I'm not trying to become a writer so whatever but, #2 is a major problem for me! I can't stop. Even right now in this comment. It would be like asking me to relearn how to ride a bike. I just... I can't... help...

Granny Annie said...

First please yourself.

themom said...

Now you have me wondering - where exactly did I learn to use two spaces at the end of sentences. Now I have to be re-educated...I feel so inferior.

Excellent post. I am an accountant and only dabble at the "blogging." I don't pretend, even admit, that I am not a writer. I just know what is rattling around in my head and place it on the interwebs. Probably so everyone will know I'm an idiot. :)

Granny Annie said...

To themom -- you and I learned typing rules that require a double space at the end of a sentence. For me computers were not even in use at the time. Desktop publishing brought out new rules for a younger generation. I cannot break the habit.

Darth Weasel said...

Well said and can we add people who never win, they always loose the game? If you do not know the correct homonym...find a different way to say it.

Scarlet said...

Like themom & Granny Annie, I was taught to use two spaces at the end of each sentence in college...which was eons ago and it IS a hard habit to break.

I can't believe these rules can change. What's next...left on red?

JLee said...

ahaha...I have a lot of these. You would be SHOCKED at the spelling and grammar of news producers, whose job it is to get it right! My 12 year old does a better job.

Riot Kitty said...

I have wondered where the double space thing came from - so someone suddenly decided to change it at some point? Hmm.

Scarlet, you CAN go left on red here, as long as it's in the same direction and on a one-way street!

pheromone girl said...

About the double spacing dilemma I would like to comment. I was a secretary straight out of high school and business writing demanded the old doublespace. I had no choice but to learn it. When I moved into advertising, it was single spaces only. Now, I still find myself correcting other's work when there are doublespaces. It makes me nutty...

LL Cool Joe said...

Are you talking about me? ;) I think I'm guilty of all those points! Well I would be if I could spell "whimsical".

Phil said...

I have been on both sides of your dilemma. I write and occasionally submit things to others. Hopefully I'm not arragant and pushy. I have, in the past been a website editor and some of the people that think what they write is good are completely insane. Have they not read the English language before?!!? I know your pain. That being said, can I write for your website? I am rilliant and only require modest compensation. (I just thought of re-writing this comment with horrific grammatical and spelling errors throught but didn't want to take the time to go back and do it over)

Pouty Lips said...

I guess I'd better not give up my day job as an accountant.