Please Spare us Another Listicle
A plea to those who profess to help us write better but will not
1 — Self-promotion grates, and the innumerable ways in which you blow your own horn is more cacophony than melody to our ears. If you’re proficient at what you do, pride and self-confidence are rightly yours. But telling us what a big deal you are, day in, day out, is a little unhelpful. Credibility isn’t something you demand, celebrity isn’t something you hijack, and not all writing is marketing. How can your writing about how amazing you are help us become better writers?
2 — Your being your own inspiration, greatest fan, and own hero leaves us perplexed. What do you even need readers and fellow writers for then? Why don’t you write a journal and give yourself a round of applause after reading each entry out loud? You lure our eyeballs to your words under false pretenses then use them as vanity mirrors, and we still are no closer to finding out how to write better.
3 — You belittle fellow writers and chastise them to make yourself look good. Bemoaning the lack of editing is one thing, dismissing someone else’s work because more editing was needed is another. Not everyone has the time or skills to craft perfect copy, but it doesn’t make their voice, message, or work any less valid than yours. Why don’t you share with us how to solve this issue as your headline promised?
4 — You put down fellow writers for having no distinctive voice but one’s voice doesn’t always a good piece make. In journalism for example, the journalist is a message delivery device and there are style guides to respect. Personality, “feels”, a writer’s ego — what you call a distinctive voice — are often surplus to requirements. In such cases, interestingness comes from how well-researched and/or thought-provoking a piece is. Disparaging others is hardly a way to help them write better, but it’s certainly a way to discourage some of us.
5 — You decry the use of registers other than colloquial as snobbishness and assume readers are dumb. Not every writer is willing to pander to the lowest common denominator and some subject matters are de facto less accessible than others. Would biting the hand that feeds us as you do help us write better then? We are confused. We writers wouldn’t exist without readers, would we? So don’t readers deserve our respect and appreciation?
6 — By shooting down bad grammar and spelling errors you fail to acknowledge that English is also used as a lingua franca by many non-native speakers. Should writers who aren’t yet fluent not express themselves because their mistakes offend you? How does your being such a pretentious ambassador for the English language help anyone write better? Perhaps what you meant to say is that mistakes pale into insignificance when a piece is written with heart so please keep going, it gets easier?
7 — You assume everyone is fully conversant with digital technology and at home with basic text formatting. This is a common assumption in the digital age and one that leaves way too many people behind. Making someone already frustrated with technology feel incompetent won’t help them write better. Instead, they’re more likely to give up because they feel lost, incapable, and unwelcome alongside your illustrious self.
8 — You appoint yourself as the arbiter of good writing despite a glaring lack of credentials or professional experience. If you were going to give us helpful tips as per your headline and had the humility to call yourself self-taught, we’d probably love and thank you for it. Instead, you can’t resist asserting superiority over us and it’s making us feel icky.
9 — Typing on the internet is what you do with clickbait headlines that fail to offer value in the form of promised advice. And yet, you have the gall to ridicule work that lacks substance? Have you re-read yourself lately? Because we came here expecting something you’re yet to deliver and now we’re pissed. You’re playing readers and your fellow writers for fools, aren’t you? Yes, some of us are paying attention.
10 — Your head has gotten so big all the good words and the helpful advice you promised us got stuck in transit between your brain and your fingers. Perhaps if you pried your outsize head out of your backside, this would restore information flow? Alleviating your predicament could be as simple as remembering that writing is something you do to and for others, not at others.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.