I fancy myself a writer.

Which is not to say that I am not one.  I currently am paid to, among other things, write.  What’s more, I sometimes write when I am not being paid, which may be more deserving of the moniker than the former.  Being a writer is a curse of sorts and it is unfortunate that the world seems to appreciate the products of writers without appreciating the knowledge, skill, and guts that writing requires.

Too often I find that entities (people, organizations, businesses) which find themselves in need of something written, will hastily dole out the work to the nearest beating heart with a keyboard and a grade school education.  It boggles the mind to behold the number of advertisements, news articles, blog posts, web pages, and other forms of writing that are released to the eyes of unsuspecting readers without so much as a spell check being performed, much less a proofread (Here is where I apologize for any and all errors you may find on this blog. I proofread as best I can, multiple times in fact. If I miss something, call it fate).

Imagine this: a young company is taking great care to produce their first web page.  Countless meetings are held between executives to ensure the right team is assembled. They hire a web designer to generate the layout, graphic designers to make a company logo, and a top-notch attorney to cover their legal issues and protect their IP.  They contract a terrific host for their site and have internal IT help with the details to ensure smooth operation.  A web marketing specialist is added to the staff to help get the most out of their new endeavor.  All of these experts were needed for their individual role in making the look, feel, and function of the site just right.  Now they just need content.  And who provides it?

Anyone.

Anyone who’ll do it.  Anyone who can.  Anyone who has the time.  Anyone.  Product managers, VPs, marketing specialists, web designers, engineers, anyone who can puke something out gets a shot. And why? Because anyone who can read can write, of course!  Besides, there isn’t enough money left to hire a writer to produce content. At least not after the bloodsucking lawyer was through with us.

All of those experts were required to make the web site functional and pretty in just the right way.  It was their expertise that was required to get things just right.  For what?  So people can log on to the site and…read.  The entire purpose of the site is to be read.  The written word is the conveyance of almost all information on a webpage.  And yet when it comes to producing the content for a site, it is an afterthought; a nuisance in fact, unworthy of allocating resources or even a regard for quality.

Grammar, punctuation, style and usage – these are the basics of written communication that are intended -nay- necessary to convey thoughts, no matter how mundane.  Without attention to them, meaning is obscured, readers are repelled, and the words themselves become futile.  For what good is a piece of writing that no one reads?  Chances are if it’s poorly written, it will be poorly read.

It seems the value of good writing has been so undervalued by the fact that everybody can simply “read and write.”  But placing letters on a page does not a writer make.  One does not trust a fisherman to perform surgery, though both he and the surgeon may wield a knife well.  One does not allow the blowhards of talk radio (you know who you are) to litigate in court simply because they are good at speaking.  One does not ask a cartoonist to draw up plans for a new home, though both she and the architect can draw something from nothing.  Why then does writing for an audience, no matter how small, so often fall to the simply “literate” person who does not have enough to do?

I am not suggesting that only experts in language can write.  I am no expert and yet here I am.  All I am saying is that the task of writing for an audience is not for everyone, and yet the selection of writers for so many tasks receives little thought or reflection, nor any qualification other than literacy.

This shows in so many ways.  Misspellings, improper grammar, poor punctuation – these are the easy ones.  But nothing reveals it more insultingly than the poorly vocalized thought, or the incomplete argument, or the non-sequitur, or worse, the blatant misuse of language.

“If you do not say what you mean, you will almost never mean what you say.”  – The Last Emperor

These words have never rang more true.  Language is mangled before our eyes, every…single…day.

There are intricacies to communication, not just in legality, but in simple communication.  Do you want something to be read?  Hire a writer.  You won’t regret it.

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