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Writing job ads, or how to interpret the clueless

Updated on August 5, 2013

The trouble with job ads for writers is that they are obviously written by people who have absolutely no idea what the job entails. The usual writing job ad is a sort of shopping list created by a committee. In between the typos and the obvious desire to fill in space with unnecessary details you'll find shining examples of total incomprehension.

In commercial writing, ads are sourced from a spectrum ranging from total illiteracy to levels of expertise. Opinions vary, but the general impression is that these ads are written by people who don't read, can't, or shouldn't. Strictly speaking, bureaucrats are not particularly good readers, fuss pot middle managers can't read at all, and the "high social IQ" brigade have absolutely no understanding of writing at all.


  • Words per minute: The classic symptom of somebody who has absolutely no idea what writing is all about is the words per minute syndrome in a job ad. Writers aren't typists. We create content, not commodities.
  • Word count: Good writers can say in three words what bad writers can't say in an entire book. Good writers provide perspective, bad writers provide animal fodder.
  • Content quality: Good writers produce original materials, bad writers simply quote or rehash other people. People looking for "market standard" writing are simply looking for materials to board their readers to death. Lack of emphasis on perspective and insights simply means that they have no idea what writing is all about. (Also means that they have no idea what SEO is all about, or anything else.)
  • Recruiters: Recruiters are usually given a shopping list of standardized content for their ads. This usually means that some middle manager has unearthed the job description, and hasn't bothered to check the actual requirements of the job.
  • Style guides: These dinosaurs infest the writing market like lice. It's not as though readers sit there solemnly reading with a style guide in hand looking for breaches of protocols or other cataclysmic events. Readers want information and/or entertainment; they do not want anachronisms, arcane grammar, or other basically useless content. Nor, coincidentally, do they need these things.

The most likely situation with most job ads for writers is that any relevant creative content person is simply not involved in the process. The result is that the employer will receive the usual 98% of absolutely useless submissions and everyone will appreciate how hard they worked to find a writer. As a matter of fact, hard work is usually created by people doing things the wrong way.

The real problem is that most of these job ads are a total waste of time for writers. The amount of actual information provided is pathetic. A simple link would tell writers whether or not they can work on that site or not. It would also tell writers a lot about the advertiser. I was just looking at a job ad for "very high quality writers" to discover that the site itself was a start-up, with no content and therefore no credibility. There are variations on this theme, but if you research advertisers, you can save yourself a lot of time by simply editing out the rubbish.

When looking at job ads, discard the ads you can't research, office worker-like shopping lists, anything that looks like clerical/admin work, and anything obviously written by a psychotic cretin. It will save you a lot of time, frustration, and you're not missing much by not getting jobs like those. Be fussy, be cynical, and take your time assessing the job ads. You'll be very glad that you did.


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