Friday, May 04, 2007

Why is There so Much Bad Writing on the Web?

. . . And What Can Be Done About It
I owe readers of my work a big apology. Why? Because I've contributed to bad writing on the web. Now I know, to a certain degree, why this is - and what can be done about it.

If you regularly submit content to the web - whether it's for your blog, an e-zine, a newsletter, website copy, etc. - read and heed!

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Why Is There So Much Bad Writing on the Web: Reason #1

Volume: In the last year and a half, 25-30% of my workload has become web copy. I also have a blog, a website and a newsletter - all of which require regular updates.

In short, I turn out a huge volume of text on a regular basis; it's not unusual for me to write between 3,000 and 6,000 words a day. In terms of articles, that's the equivalent of 10, 600-word articles a day.

This can take 10, 12 or 13 hours. In between, there's research, fact checking, interviews, formatting, etc., to be done.

So, what gets pushed back? What we in the publishing industry used to call QC (quality checking). This is the editing, proofreading and rewriting.

Because the web is in "real time," freelance writers are almost forced to respond in real time. There's a constant need to update content, respond to content, produce new content, etc. Again, what gets pushed to the side - copyediting, editing and proofreading.

While this is certainly no excuse, the amount of time spent on copy has a direct bearing on a freelance writer's income, which brings me to my next point - balancing time to make money.

Why Is There So Much Bad Writing on the Web: Reason #2

Money: As any freelance writer will tell you, time literally is money. Because our income is directly related to how much copy we can produce, edit, rewrite, etc., we have to maximize it to the fullest.

The writing has to get done. The interviews have to be conducted. The web pages have to be updated. What can usually slide? The copyediting, editing and proofreading.

Why IsThere So Much Bad Writing on the Web: Reason #3

Laziness: Yep, I'm going to put this right out there - plain old laziness. Many times, as freelance writers, we're just ready to get a piece off our desk. We get tired of looking at it, tired of the concept and tired of trying to make it "just right."

So, we publish it without doing a final proof, a final edit, a final rewrite.

And, while there is certainly a time when you should "let a piece go," it should never be before the quality check is complete.

Solution to Bad Writing on the Web

There's only one way to stop this - and that is to get back to good old-fashioned copyediting and proofreading.

And, while spell check is a great tool - it can't read your mind. That's why "write" for "right" will get through.

So, to readers of my work - who I value and respect immensely - my promise to you is that my work will get better. While I can't promise to never write another piece without errors, I do promise that the quality of what I put out will go up - markedly - from here on out.

Now, I'm off to proofread this before I hit "Publish."

Coming Monday: Monday will be wrap-up day. What do I mean? On 4/02, I posted about an Editor-in-Chief's job offer I received. I've made a decision on that.

AND, for my post on 4/26, Lillie Amman awarded me The Thinking Blogger's Award (yeah!). So, I have to tag five other bloggers whom I think deserve this award.

Have a good weekend,

Yuwanda Black, Publisher
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Julia Temlyn said...

I've actually proofread and copyedited for some content providers and companies, and I wish more companies would take the time to hire copyeditors and proofreaders. Content apparently brings in a lot of money, so it's not like they can't afford it. If they can hire writers, why not editors? It's mind-boggling, really. And the lack of proofreading makes people like me avoid a lot of web content. I just cannot take it seriously if there are too many errors. A few here and there, all right, but not every sentence.

I really enjoyed reading this!

Inkwell Editorial said...

Thanks Julia, glad you enjoyed the read. Having worked in publishing for a decade before I had my own business, I can tell you first-hand that the editorial budgets are the first to get cut. And, guess who goes first, the copy editor/proofreader.

Most companies don't employ both anymore -- usually just a copy editor. And, if the company can't afford this, they go with the cheapest freelance help they can find -- the quality can be up for grabs in many cases.

In some firms, it's the editors who do the QC (quality check) and we both know where that leads. It's not that they're incapable, it's just that no one should proof their own work, the chance for error is too high (shhh -- it'll be out little secret that I proof most of mine). DON'T go reading through posts looking for errors -- b/c you're likely to find plenty! Thanks for chiming in. :-)