Worse than Excrement: What to do about bad online writing, especially if it’s yours.
© 2012 by Aurelio Locsin.
Your writing stinks worse than excrement!
I’m paraphrasing, of course. But that was the comment from a reader of one of my purely factual hubs.
Normally, I would ignore such invective. After all, I’d always maintained that for a writer even a bad comment was better than no comment. The former meant people were reading your words. The latter meant nobody cared about it.
And the critique had descended from a forum notorious for its Neanderthalish observations. Besides, that place already granted me 150 views in less than a day, which was the original goal of the posting.
But the critique came from one of the moderators, whose opinions were usually measured and well thought out. Time to give this high-horse rider a piece of my mind, supported with choice, well-written quotes from the object of his scorn. So I went back to my hub and made an awful discovery.
My critic was right.
The writing was densely packed with jargon, riddled with typos and grammatical errors, and incomprehensible in some of its structure. The work was an embarrassment from a writer who’s been lauded by fellow wordsmiths and whose work has graced the front page of its site.
I quickly made changes to the disaster entitled "Highest Paid Surgeons in the USA: Where These Doctors Make The Best Salaries." I also scuttled any thoughts of a rebuttal since now my attitude toward the critic had changed to gratitude. Presumably, people would continue to visit the link from the forum. And the improved version would garner better comments, perhaps from the original commenter himself.
But something about the hub still nagged me. Stats showed at least 200 visits from HubPages, the community that nurtured the article. These people cared about good writing, supposedly. Some were even regular followers of my words. Why didn’t any of them catch the problems and tell me about it? Did any bother to actually read the content?
The response tiptoed toward me from fellow writer Ardie. She’d noticed a minor typo on my Animals Quiz. She gingerly and diplomatically broached the subject via private email, fearful of mortally wounding my literary heart. Her correction quickly found its way into the hub after I thanked her.
If you’re a fellow writer, you may be under the impression that any of your critiques would somehow bury my writing aspirations under an avalanche of fury. But consider that your thoughtful appraisals are far more acceptable than the slams of the general public.
So, I beg you. If you spot anything amiss with my words, whether it be a small typo or a major error in logic, please honor their intent by telling me. If you must, message me privately. I will treasure your kindness.
What About Others?
I may feel this way because my non-fiction writing is a commodity, meant to inform and entertain, but ultimately, to earn money. With over 7,500 articles floating around the Internet, I don’t remember, much less form emotional attachments to, my work.
But we must recognize that other writers may pour heart, soul and long hours into their efforts. They feel the same way about their creations as a mother feels towards her children. (I experience the same fondness for my creative works.)
- What do you do if you spot a misspelling, missing punctuation mark or other typo in someone else’s writing?
- What if it’s a major error in construction or logic?
- What if the writer is simply incomprehensible and can’t string words together?
- Do you respond differently if it’s obvious that English is not the author’s first language?
- Do your reactions change if the work is factual, like a recipe or procedure, or creative, like a short story or poem?
Sorry, but you won’t find answers from me. But I welcome your responses and thoughts in the Comments below. Together we may come up with good solutions.