I make my living with words, I’d like to think that I’m pretty good at what I do, but I’ve never claimed to be the best automotive writer in the world, nor do I make any aspirations as to understanding, or even knowing, every single grammar rule, spelling or meaning of every word in the English language.
I occasionally get things wrong; “Swiss made … be aware that those eight letters carry a premium”. WTAF? How did I even reach that conclusion? I mean … I can count right, even if I was to struggle, I have ten fingers (OK, as we’re talking about pedantry, I have eight fingers and two thumbs), so … just what happened?
Perhaps it was poetic justice – this happened the day after I pointed out a mistake on a client’s website (in the content that was written before I was on the scene), and it was the same client that pointed out my mistake. Shit.
DBAD – Don’t Be a Dick
I ummed and ahhhed as to pointing it out – of course I should, but the dilemma arose from how do I point it out? I figured that pretty much any way I did it, I’d look like a dick; the ‘know it all’ writer, Mr Pedant, self-satisfied or smug.
I decided to break it to him with typical English-ness – by apologising and calling myself a dick. Job done.
He thanked me for pointing it out, which is kind of what I wanted – I didn’t want him thinking that I was just a … you get my drift. It was the very next day that he pointed out my eight letter faux pas – with good humour.
That’s the importance of good proof reading, or having someone else run through your work – a fresh pair of eyes is often the best way to spot an error.
Professional Automotive Writing
A few days later, a motoring ‘journalist’ I’m connected with on social media tweeted a link to his latest car review for an online magazine. Always keen to try and gauge the competition or even learn something new, I thought I’d have a peek.
The dilemma I had whether to tell my customer about his mistake was soon forgotten when I read this new article … just how do you tell someone (a relative stranger) that their review was full of basic grammar mistakes, misspelled words and terrible punctuation?
Every sentence was short. Punctuated with a full-stop. With terribel speeling errors. And even worst grammar. There article could have been written better. A professional automotive journalist. Really.
The answer to the question … how do you tell a relative stranger that their work was poor … you don’t. Well, I don’t.
You see, the occasional error or genuine typo is one thing … I write approximately half-a-million words every year, there’s always gonna be one that slips through the net, but this was littered with them, and then of course his software hadn’t picked up on any of them, nor had the publication – that’s three checks that have missed them.
If the job is sloppy enough to get away with that, then it makes me wonder just who, what or how they’re doing?
I’d never publicly criticise another writer, hence the anonymity I’ve afforded them here, but just how can you call yourself a professional writer and turn out turgid, piss-poor words like that and expect to get paid for them?
I belong to a number of professional writing, marketing, social media, freelance or journalistic groups, a common theme among them is the low rates that companies expect to pay, and as much as it pains me to say, it’s entirely because of writers like the one mentioned above.
Not giving a shit, offering no value aside from regular words on a site (which Google like), no insight or useful takeaway info is the reason why copy or content writers struggle to gain clients or work, or at least work of some value.
Well, that’s part of the reason, the other part is the freelancing sites that like to have your trousers down before you even get comfortable – I’m talking the likes of Upwork, PeoplePerHour and Fiverr where it’s a race to get to the bottom of the pricing, and then of course, forking out up to 25% for the privilege.
I do see the value of these sites, indeed, that’s how I started out, in fact I still have accounts registered with them, but I bailed from them as soon as was humanly possible for me – they’re pisstakers, full of people wanting to pay a packet of chocolate buttons for a 5,000 word article, with ‘writers’ letting them do so.
And that brings me back to the automotive journalist … he may be fed-up with earning a box of Weetabix for his efforts, but he took that choice, and if you’ve taken the dollar, your performing monkey act should be top drawer, regardless of whether you like the amount of money or not.