Damaging Your Credibility as a Writer

I went to a Public Relations & Marketing seminar this week in Chapel Hill, and had the pleasure of listening to a luncheon speech by Marty Clarke, author of COMMUNICATION LAND MINES. His web site is http://www.martyclarke.com/, and I highly recommend him — he’s a terrific speaker.

Marty asked whether or not we agreed that a single typographic error or misspelled word on a resume could prevent a person from getting a job interview. We all said, “Yes.” So he asked why we weren’t as careful with e-mail as we would be with a resume — with proofreading instead of just relying on the spell checker (“Spell check is your enemy,” he said), and doing whatever we can to ensure that the message we send out doesn’t inadvertently destroy our credibility.

I don’t recall the entire question exactly, but he asked something along the lines of, “How many of you have received an e-mail from someone higher up in your company and when you read it you thought, ‘How did you get to where you are if this is how you choke out a paragraph in your native language?'”

I ask the same thing sometimes with respect to some of the novel manuscripts I look at for Baen. I should ask those authors whose manuscripts are riddled with spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors if they take as little care with their resumes. Because in this case the manuscript is their resume.

Then again, sometimes a gem of a story lies hidden inside a very rough manuscript — so I have to look beyond some pretty bad writing to see if the story itself is good. But I wish those writers would take a little more care to present themselves better — that they would polish that gem so it sparkled the first time I saw it.

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0 Responses to Damaging Your Credibility as a Writer

  1. Gray Rinehart says:

    Ah, Meg, that would be the joy of copy-editing. Copy editors get all manner of grief (including from me).

    It may be easier these days to make corrections, but when I wrote QUALITY EDUCATION some of the galley errors I found weren’t corrected because it cost money to go back in and re-do things. So I know how mistakes can creep in and not be taken out again.

    As for buzz words … at least new ones come along every now and again. Sometimes they’re not that much better, though.

    Thanks much!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Good thought. I still remember the one point in McCaffery’s “DragonQuest” where the villain’s name is misspelled (Kylora instead of Kylara).

    I “do” English, but working with engineers means many of my colleagues don’t think about what they say. The atrocious usage of buzz words is the most irritating. Usually the word is legitimate, coming into use because there was someone who had a large vocabulary. But then it gets plugged into speak by people who have no clue where it comes from – appending endings and articles that are not appropriate. Aargh!