Writing This Bad Highlights a Whole Other Writing World

Let’s dispense with weighty commercial writing matters for a moment and have a little comic relief. A few weeks back, an accomplished writer friend of mine sent me a link to an article, along with this note: “Holy crap, this is what passes for writing these days?!”

Here’s the link.

I read it, my jaw slowly dropping, then dashed off a note to the webmaster. I won’t bore you with my entire note, but here are a few snarky highlights:

As a professional copywriter for 16 years, I was appalled that a web site that appears to be a legitimate purveyor of information would actually post such breathtakingly bad, awkward and incoherent writing. Simply put, it makes your site look like a low-rent operation. Why you’d spend what was clearly a pretty penny to create a logo, brand, and attractive-looking site only to fill it with such crap is beyond me. Talk about sabotaging an investment. I’d wager good money you’re paying bad money (what? like $5 an article, perhaps?) for such content. Though, that said, if you’re paying any more than that, you’re getting ripped off.

I actually got a note back from the webmaster, who wrote:

Wow that was some email. But it does come as a reality check to us and I assure you we will try and put out better information in the future. Thanks for the honesty, really. I will review every article before it goes live from now on.

Well, guess what? He actually did revisit it. In fact, the link I sent you is the copy AFTER it was “revisited.” I know, it’s hard to get your arms around the idea that it was actually worse before, but trust me, it was. Here’s an excerpt, untouched. You ready? You sure? Okay, I warned you…

If you want to have a coffee table in your garden or you want to sit there at night then have a rightly sized corner specially designed with a small table and chairs or if you want to have a swing in your garden then have some creeping vines grow on the swing to make it look as if the swing grew there too.

Words fail (in more ways than one…).

My friend tells me sites like these are known as “blog networks” (not “content mills,” that’s something else, though these no doubt pay just as badly) and are largely – you ready for this? – self-edited. And as she put it, “As long as they’re getting the clicks, they’re happy. It’s all about page views in a networked blog.” I don’t even want to get to a point where I actually understand that particular kind of thinking.

One thing quickly becomes clear: what these people do and what we do may both involve quote-unquote writing, but it’s there the similarity ends. Sort of how racing could refer to both what kids do with Tonka Toys and, oh, say, Formula One?

I know, it’s not very nice of me to make fun of bad writers just trying to make a no-doubt bad living in an arena in which they’re a bad fit (or maybe not…). But, just remember this the next time you hear someone saying how hard it is to make a living as a writer with rates so pathetic for writers. No, not all writers making $5 an article are this bad, but when this is how low the bar is in so many places, a decent writer is truly throwing pearls before swine. But hey, they’ve got options. If they don’t choose to exercise them, not my problem.

Ever had any contact with this world in your travels? (Or is this about as foreign to you as Pluto?)

Have you come across some equally bad examples?

What might you tell someone who whines about not being able to make a living writing?

What might you have told the webmaster if you were writing a note?

41 replies
  1. Lorraine
    Lorraine says:

    Unfortunately, I hear about this kind of thing a lot–it gets snickers from the copywriting crowd on Twitter.

    This person has no business writing copy. Clearly, he or she speaks English as a second language. But I’m not convinced someone like this has so many “options”–probably outsourced labor from one of those overseas content mills. It’s hard to blame desperate people for trying to earn a living.

    But the situation is distressing–and not just because it exploits vulnerable people. While some argue otherwise, I feel dirt-cheap pricingdoes erode pricing for everyone.

  2. Cory
    Cory says:

    Oh, my. Thanks for the laugh. This is a great example of why copy should not be self-edited.

    Unfortunately, I think the writing profession attracts a disproportionate number of unqualified people, because all literate people physically know how to write — that is, how to put paper to pen (or fingers to keyboard). But, as you know, too few people know how to write well.

    When friends who are considering freelance writing complain about the lowball gigs out there, I recommend your book. Seriously. I tell them that there are people out there who charge $100 an hour and whose dance cards are full. Who wants clips like this hanging out there in cyberspace, anyway?

  3. Pamela
    Pamela says:

    Great. Now that I’ve clicked on it to see what that writer cerated (sic), the site will count my visit as a win.

    On the positive side, any worries about my own abilities to write coherently have been dismissed. Thanks for the confidence boost!

  4. Christopher P Korody
    Christopher P Korody says:

    Wow Peter!

    I can’t decide if you are getting ready to give a prize for the rudest comment, or just enjoy throwing the lions raw meat now and again.

    Pretty amazing that the webmaster had managed “not to notice” as he posted. Pretty amazing whoever pays for his clicks managed “not to notice” too. I have no idea what to say about readers, except that they do seem to have some…

    The important part – and the first part of the message to your many readers who are just finding their way (seeking their level?) in the freelance writing game – is that they could have turned in perfectly polished prose worthy of Hemingway, and they still would have only been paid $5.

    That is because the market is an efficient mechanism… What the webmaster can pay has nothing to do with merit and everything to do with what he can charge his advertisers. That’s their business model, their niche. (BTW this is all hypothetical for purposes of illustration – not looking to slam anyone..)

    The moral of the story is that if you want to make the medium, big or giant bucks, then you are going to have to go where people pay more then $5 an article.

    The poor illiterate who we are all ridiculing doesn’t have those options because he or she doesn’t have the skills to make any more then $5 an article.

    The work is there – if you need to polish your skills first to play at the next level, please no whining.

  5. William Reynolds
    William Reynolds says:

    While the problem here clearly stems from poor writing skills, flagrant abuse of SEO for its own sake can also wreak havoc. I’ve encountered problems when writing for webmasters who insist on using a nonsensical or ungrammatical keyword phrase simply because “this is the phrase that gets the top search results.” I’ve had to remind them that the inclusion of such a phrase just draws more public attention to the fact that their client’s website reads like crap.

  6. Gerry Schwerdt
    Gerry Schwerdt says:

    I have to agree with Pamela. Reading that terrible copy was definitely a confidence booster.
    This reminds me that here in the Southern California area we have a large plumbing company that keeps running the same radio ad containing a glaring grammatical error. A woman comes on and laments: “Why won’t a plumber just tell me what it will cost to unclog my drain over the phone?” After hearing this ad close to 20 times, I felt compelled to e-mail the company (though I probably should have researched who their ad agency was and contacted them). My comment was: “Wow. I never knew you could unclog a drain over the phone!” (I didn’t elaborate on the fact that it was a misplaced prepositional phrase that was the essence of the error).
    Needless to say, I never received a reply, and the ad continues to run periodically on several stations, some of which are 50,000 watt stations and have a huge market share. My guess is that only the writers in the listening audience caught the error.

  7. Bette Arnold
    Bette Arnold says:

    How embarrassing! I think this proves that if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. At first this was encouraging; I can dance circles around that and not be fully awake. BUT, someone had to put this on the web. So who is worse, the poor writer or the webmaster that can’t tell Shakespeare from sh%#?

  8. Michele Jiménez
    Michele Jiménez says:

    Lorraine is right. Judging by the word choice and syntax, this was not written by a native, or even decent, English speaker. It was perhaps even an online translation from another language?

    The problem I’ve encountered working with non-native English speakers or people who do not necessarily speak English well is that they often have no basis for judgment. To them, this sounds fine or “good enough” and it’s a tough sell to convince them otherwise.

    What was the webmaster like? Did he understand the problem? Was HE able to judge decent English prose? (Apparently not.)

    I don’t understand the point of getting “hits” if no one is reading the information. Is the company getting sales from this? It reminds me of a bad movie. Great special effects but terrible story line.

  9. Star
    Star says:

    I followed this and had a hard time taking a picture of how the garden “should” look. kind of a future pluperfect deal or something. Also it didn’t say to plant any plants–I had to figure that out. This is what I call “internet goo.”

  10. Lori W.
    Lori W. says:

    Well I don’t know, Peter. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering where to put this coffee table….

    I’ve seen plenty of this floating (pun intended) in the Internet cesspool.

    I’m not one to discourage people from a writing career but rather encourage them to learn more about their craft. If it’s a person who’s really bad at it, I suggest a basic grammar/writing course and a thorough study of a college handbook. I’ve come close to saying “Don’t quit your day job” but I keep thinking I wasn’t that stellar when I began, either.

    However, if they’re raving about making $5 an article, I tell them to get a real job – one with at least a minimum wage. These aren’t writers as these are real writing gigs.

    My note to the webmaster would have read “Please hire a native English speaker.” It’s pretty obvious this wasn’t the author’s first language.

  11. Lee Lyons
    Lee Lyons says:

    Your example comes as no surprise to me. This is exactly the kind of writing that employers are willing to pay for these days. I have been unable to find work as a writer for more than two years now. Why? Because my former employer wanted to cut my pay from $100 (per 600-1,000 word article) to $25 and I refused. She’s hired a whole pack of writers at that rate since I left. (Actually, some work for free just to see their by-lines in print.)

    Meanwhile, I spent 20 hours a week scouring all of the jobsites and freelance offers and am consistently underbid by people willing to write $5 articles. I used to get occasional magazine work. A well-researched article running around 2,000 words paid me $200-$250. Since the explosion of “on-line writing” (and I use the term, oh, so loosely), no one is willing to pay for quality writing and research. They will pay peanuts for blogging and churning out 400 word articles by amateurs, or pay-per-click, and other nonsense. Serious journalism is dead, apparently, and employers will hire anyone who cam construct a mediocre sentence.

    So, I spent the summer living in my car (no, I’m not kidding), and have no money or ability to relocate to an area where I might actually find a job. I’m pretty much at the end of my rope and I owe it all to the ‘Net and everyone’s “new hobby”–being a writer!

  12. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    Thanks for all your contributions. I think we’re all in agreement that we’re operating, thankfully, blessedly, in a whole different universe. And actually, given that English is no doubt, NOT the writer’s native tongue, perhaps we can at least hope that she’s somewhere where $5 (or whatever no-doubt paltry sum she’s getting) actually goes a lot further than it does here.

    And Lee, thanks for your comments. All I can say, and I’m saying this as gently as I can, you need to move beyond that writing niche if you have any hope of ever making a good living as a writer. The rates you quoted here that you USED to get (presumably in the “good old days”) are still far lower than most anyone weighing in on this blog would ever accept.

    Until you “UN-commoditize” your writing (i.e., stop trying to compete with a million other writers with interchangeable skills, all writing for clients for whom the bare minimum (or lower) level of coherence is all they want and need, making anything better than that “overkill”), you’ll struggle.

    Clearly, just based on the comment you posted here, I can see you write well, so why are you wasting your time there? If it’s because you didn’t even know there were other better-paying arenas of writing, well, now you do. This blog is focused on commercial writing – where hourly rates run $50-125+ and you’re paid for all your time. Given where you’ve come from, sounds like half the LOW end of that range per hour would be a huge raise.

    Anyway, check out my book, The Well-Fed Writer, for an overview of the field. There really ARE greener writing pastures out there.


  13. Lorraine
    Lorraine says:

    @Lee I must pipe up in agreement with Peter. Don’t despair. I know it’s a huge mental shift from editorial writing to marketing copywriting. But it can be done. And it really must be done if you want to make a living as a writer.

    Once you’ve acheived financial stability you can do editorial on the side if you really love it.

    Peter’s books are an excellent foundation and you’ll find a ton of free online resources to help you transition. With your solid wordsmithing skills, I’m sure it won’t be difficult.

    Good luck.

  14. Valerie Alexander
    Valerie Alexander says:

    See, that would have read like Nabokov to one of my old clients who thought any writing was good writing. The last time he hired me, the other “writer” I worked with was an executive’s daughter who wrote maybe one degree better than the above copy. It was her summer job and she had no experience or training and they thought that was just fine.

    It’s not just online.

  15. Ron Kallemeyn
    Ron Kallemeyn says:


    That post was great! You took me through a whole range of emotions. First, I doubted you. How bad could it be? Then came the absolute terror that I would see my byline when I clicked on the link. Whew! As I read the article, I was shocked at how bad it was and I started to feel sorry for the author.

    To me, this seemed more like a kid wrote it rather than a foreign person. I am no expert, but it seems to be written at about a fifth or sixth grade level. This theory was confirmed when I read the run-on sentence that had been edited out. Even foreign languages have rules against run-on sentences.

    By the time I was finished reading your post, I was laughing out loud. After I finished reading, I realized that your post boosted my confidence more than the handwritten note I received with my last check, thanking me and saying they like my work.

    Finally, I have been inspired with a new money making endeavor. My three daughters, ages twelve, fourteen, and sixteen, all write much better than this author. I’m thinking they can pay for their own college. Let’s see . . . They need a minimum of about $80,000 each for four years of college. If I force them to write one article each day, five days a week. That’s $5.00 X 5 articles X 52 weeks for $1300 per year. They can pay off their college in about 61 years! Hmm. Maybe they can write more articles per day in the summer. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

    Thanks for the post.

    Ron Kallemeyn

  16. Mele
    Mele says:

    Peter, you have GOT to be kidding me! And this was the “revisited” version?

    Never, EVER again will I take for granted my skills as a writer.

  17. Star
    Star says:

    To me, this sterling example of internet goo did not even have that “foreign” sound. The best ad I saw in that vein said something like, “You will time yourself so you can fetch your baby child from the bus station.” It was like the first line of a short story. Pretty soon we will be down to the mysterious unconnected words they put in when they want to sell you hot vicodin. Today, a client I am doing a second article for refused to reimburse me the Paypal fee of $9 from the last little story–I was never paid by PP before so didn’t know the recipient takes the hit. When you buy a money order–you pay. Who knew? What a world–forget her–sure her pitches were great and she didn’t need editing, but she didn’t want to pay to get her money.

  18. Holly Bowne
    Holly Bowne says:

    “What might you tell someone who whines about not being able to make a living writing?”

    I’d say “keep trying!”

    As a newer freelance writer, my naivete did allow me to become unintentionally sucked into some low-paying gigs. But I quickly realized the money wasn’t worth the effort and removed myself from those situations.

    I am not a natural sales person. But I have a passion for writing and for the flexibility of the freelance lifestyle. So, I’m determined to make this work. By reading books and newsletters like yours, Peter, and putting what I’ve learned from them into practice, I’ve forced myself out of my comfort zone. As a result, I’m learning there truly are businesses out there willing to pay a writer what a writer is worth. It’s most encouraging. Thanks for all you do to help keep us aware.

  19. Michael D. Scully
    Michael D. Scully says:

    “What might you tell someone who whines about not being able to make a living writing?”

    Stop whining. And get a job doing something else.

  20. Mark McClure
    Mark McClure says:

    I don’t think ‘content’ writing like this should unduly worry a commercial writer – be thankful that you’re somewhere higher on the food chain.

    However, there is still hope for ozcar as I detected a hint of parody in their author profiles: http://www.ozcarguide.com/advertising-centre

    One person in particular stood out for me:
    “William Gates: Tech Department & Gadgets Tester”

    I hope they’ve put him in a room without windows 😉

  21. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    Thanks to all who’ve weighed in…

    On a closely related note, commercial freelancer Robin Halcomb, emailed me this link, which included this line (in paragraph #7): “Of course when content producers are being paid $15 an article and $20 per video and scrambling to create multiple pieces a day, the quality of the content will likely suffer.”

    And the words “$15 an article and $20 per video” in turn linked to this punishing account from Wired magazine of one one video producer working under such conditions. It’s a testimonial to the awe-inspiring adaptability of human beings.

    But understand that the arena they’re operating in is FAR different from our own, so I have no fear that that will become our reality. Too many customers – the kinds of people we work with – have too much of a stake in having their written communications be effective and productive to ever be happy with a “crap-is-good-enough” philosophy.


  22. Carrie
    Carrie says:

    That wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. I have seen some really, really bad content clearly written by non-native English speakers and just can’t believe people wouldn’t be embarrassed to publish it (these are English-speaking webmasters, so they should recognize bad content).

  23. Anne Wayman
    Anne Wayman says:

    When this type of writing shows up in my comments I gently respond with a suggestion they do some proofreading and/or reading out loud. Sigh. Not even a drop in the bucket.

  24. Jenn Mattern
    Jenn Mattern says:

    If that kind of writing gets under your skin, you might just keel over at another common business models with webmasters in the “cheap content” game. They don’t just get lousy content because they’re too cheap to pay for a pro. They want it. The entire idea is to turn off the reader and make them want to leave. The only links they have to click on are ads. They basically take a gamble on people clicking ads versus the back button, and in niches with non tech-savvy readers it often works well. I’ve met webmasters who own hundreds of these kinds of sites and make an absolute killing financially. They rarely even hire lousy content writers. They buy huge PLR content sets and run them through spinners instead. The articles rarely make sense. It would almost be amusing if it wasn’t so depressing.

  25. anne
    anne says:


    These folks might not be playing in our arena, but that doesn’t mean that this trend isn’t cheapening the writing that we do. Don’t you think that this kind of crap becomes a baseline? Steepening the slope towards the goo? And making it harder to convince our clients that the quality of copy that we deliver is worth the fees we charge?

    Here’s another example for you. An article that comments on this very trend.

    The irony is that it’s a poorly written article exposing poorly worded content. This is from a consultancy that bills itself as “the leading source of independent advice and insight on digital marketing and ecommerce.” Talk about $$ sunk into web design, logo and such. These guys own a corner of our sandbox. They should know better. And the content that goes on their site should be top notch. It isn’t. Or at least this article isn’t. Not by a long shot.

    Poor writing isn’t just the domain of the non-English speakers and the Demand Medias, our brethren are doing it too. Another example? My local Chamber of Commerce. This isn’t just some podunk COC, it’s the COC for the state’s largest metropolitan region and largest economic engine. The COC’s business magazine arrived in my mailbox last week. Most of the articles were written by a guy who is listed as the director of marketing. Poorly written, murkily structured drivel. I expect puff pieces in my COC magazine. No problem there. But they had better be well done puff pieces. It’s a crime, really. The ideas are good. The messaging is strong. Heck, the intention is great. The execution sucked. And it fell apart because of bad writing. (I’m not going to even mention the lack of proofreading.) It’s embarassing. He’s the director of marketing, for frigs sake.

    If my COC doesn’t respect writing enough to sub it out to the professionals, then how do local freelancers convince COC members that quality matters and is worth a premium?

  26. Jenn Mattern
    Jenn Mattern says:

    I think the bigger question is “how many professionals have pitched their services to your COC members, and did they do so effectively?” I’m always amazed at the fact that writers I know are afraid to pitch companies and organizations (big or small) to suggest improvements on existing copy. They’re too afraid of offending. If they’re not doing it, or if they’re not capable of marketing their writing as a serious value-added service, then it would explain a lot.

    Sadly, not all writers want to directly market like that, and company execs don’t always know the writing sucks. After all, that’s not their area of expertise in many cases. Even a focus on marketing doesn’t necessarily mean that marketing copy is their strong suit (it’s a broad discipline).

    A lot of clients don’t know they need you until you tell them so. I find that many are incredibly interested in hiring professionals once they’ve been convinced of the value. There’s this “a-ha!” moment when they realize poor copy might be contributing to their also-poor conversions (or even that they could improve already decent results).

    For these types of clients, low-priced writers aren’t going to sway them to cheap content. That’s because those writers deliver something very different, and they have neither the time or ability to market themselves to a completely different market when they’re too busy cramming in one cheap piece after another.

  27. anne
    anne says:


    You could very well be right about my local writers and their marketing efforts. I have no idea who’s doing what in my area. Not because I’m not interested, but because I’m booked solid and priced out of the range of many of the COC members who could really use copywriting help. That doesn’t mean that I won’t write a constructive letter to my COC about their business mag.

    It’s not so much that I worry that the low-cost writers will market to these audiences. I’m more concerned about a slow, broad decline in the quality of written content that will condition audiences to accept so-so copy as good enough. With the internet so flooded with goo (as Star puts it) and with the decline in proofreading of online content from reliable brands like the Wall Street Journal, NYTimes and others, will a day come when the business public no longer recognizes good writing? I hope not.

    And I’ll admit, I’m taking this argument to extremes that don’t really reflect my personal worries. Fortunately, I’m not concerened about finding work — and if time does free up in my schedule, I’ll start cold calling my fellow COC members ;-). But there are many good, solid writers out there who are hurting for work. Perhaps, as you suggest, they need to be on the lookout for these types of opportunities.

  28. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    Anne, I’m with Jenn (and sounds like your thriving business is proof positive that good clients that indeed appreciate the value of good writing are out there).

    While it’s easy to see examples like mine and yours as evidence of a general decline in writing, and perhaps what’s considered “acceptable,” I don’t buy it. And I don’t buy it because the business models of these blog networks and the content mills is worlds apart from the one practiced by respectable business doing their level best to stay competitive in their respective industries.

    Arguably, when all you care about is clicks, then, in a relative sense, content really doesn’t matter. Sure, you might earn more respect from readers if your content were better, but if the content you have, as crummy as it is, gets the job done, and keeps you profitable, then why do you need better? And by extension, why would you need to pay more to get better? You don’t and you won’t.

    But a business trying to stay profitable selling a product or service simply doesn’t have the luxury of being able to settle for crummy marketing copy, especially when their competitors aren’t going down that road, because, they too, know how important good copy is to their overall marketing equation.

    As for your COC, just because the newsletter is lousy doesn’t translate to members thinking THEY can get away with lousy copy for their businesses as well. Heck, they could be saying the same thing you are about their COC newsletter, and lamenting that the COC just doesn’t get it.

    As for writers contacting those members (or NOT, in this case), no big surprise there. So many writers are mediocre marketers and I’d wager they’d get a good response if they indeed reached out to those members. But hey, that’s one of the most important cornerstones of this business: the opportunities that go unpursued by writers who chase the low-hanging (and low-paying) fruit. Our field pays more precisely because those clients who DO appreciate good writing have to be ferreted out and cultivated.

    I totally agree with Jenn, and have seen the truth of this countless times in my career (as have you, no doubt…): when clients see the difference a professional writer makes, the light bulb goes on and suddenly they realize what they’ve been missing. Again, we need to be educating through our marketing. Sure, many prospects have poorly-written materials, but I’d bet good money that’s far more a function of them simply not knowing any better and not being exposed to the difference a good writer can make, than some conscious decision to NOT hire a writer.

    My two cents… Okay, three… 😉


  29. Ernest Nicastro
    Ernest Nicastro says:

    Great post Peter. Which raises a question: Why don’t more people take advantage of two very effective writing tool that are, literally, right at their fingertips? I’m referring to the “Flesch Reading Ease (FRE)” and “Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level (FKGL)” scores included with the “Spelling & Grammar” feature of MS Word.

    For example, consider the following website content:

    “Current activities include enabling leading Business Schools to develop new collaborative ways of working – these internationally recognised organisations will be helped by a process of us creating specific support packages built around progressive development learning paths for their faculty and students.”

    The above copy has a “Flesch Reading Ease” score of 0.00 and a “Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level” of 25.1. For all practical purposes it’s incomprehensible. By comparison, a typical issue of “Reader’s Digest” magazine gets a readability score of around 65. “Time” magazine scores about 52.

    I, like you, couldn’t resist offering my feedback to the writer, including offering up the FRE and FKGL scores. He acknowledged my input, opening his email to me with the line, “Trust me when I say, “I know.” More than two weeks later though, the content remains the same.

    Here’s another example:

    “Pipeline Coach’s services meet the expectations of business leaders who recognize the value of purposeful investments in human capital – often beginning with themselves – as a means of preparing and aligning people and systems in pursuit of growth.” This example comes in with FRE and FKGL scores of 13.7 and 20.5, respectively.

    “Purposeful investments”? As opposed to what? Drunken spending? Oh, and of course, you want to be sure you work in good “corporatese” such as “human capital” (what a warm, fuzzy term; who among us does not enjoy being referred to as “human capital”) and “aligning people.”
    I bet the folks who ran Enron and AIG (into the ground) were really good at “aligning people.”

    All that said, FRE and FKGL scores are not a panacea for bad writing. Still, they are tools that, when properly applied, can make writing more readable. This is especially true for the vast majority of people writing today: Non-professionals who have never seriously studied the craft of writing and are never likely to do so. Unfortunately, this multitude includes a vast number of small business owners and other professionals.

    I’m convinced that many of these small business owners and professionals, because they are well educated and have ready access to a word processor, delude themselves into thinking that they can write well enough to be effective in their business or career.

    Yet, they don’t fully utilize the writing tools their word processor gives them.

    Why not?

  30. Anne Wayman
    Anne Wayman says:

    Ernest… great question. Until I started working with Scribe, the newish keyword tool (I review it here http://bit.ly/bsqIJT) I’d never seen an FRE score and had only a vague idea that there are tools like it out there.

    And, although I’ve been using one version of word or another since we lost wordstar, I didn’t know it had the same capability… why? Well , although the scores are interesting they mostly tell me I’m writing at the level I want to and there is so much in Word I don’t need I’d never dug that out.

    Now that you’ve taught me something I’ll give it a try. Thanks.

  31. Carl
    Carl says:

    You guys should see the Chinglish I need to edit and polish (I live in Beijing and work as a freelance copywriter). Now that’s bad writing. What it’s taught me though, is that there’s a direct correlation between clear thinking and clear, effective writing.

    Maybe I’ve been affected too much by my year and a half in China, but I just can’t get too worked up over the bad writing in a 4th-rate blog. I get a little worked up by the bad writing/thinking on China Daily (http://www.chinadaily.com.cn ) since, after all, this paper wishes to be considered a credible news source, and hires native-English speakers to write and edit the articles. But even that doesn’t bother me much anymore; such ham-handed propaganda is not worth more than a snicker. What really bothers me is bad writing and poor proofreading in American books and magazines. The blog format is casual, quick, and informal in nature — like an email to a friend. But books are supposed to last.

    One last thought: Hasn’t bad writing been around as long as there has been writing? Maybe we should celebrate the bad writing, since without it, we’d be out of work. As professional copywriters, we’re in a great position now to learn SEO and combine it with our writing and marketing ability. Solid SEO combined with solid writing, will help our clients be more successful and ensure that we are valued for what we do best.

  32. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    Thanks Ernest, Anne, and Carl,

    Cool tool, Ernest! I’ll check it out. And Carl, you’re right – bad writing HAS around forever. It’s just more visible now, since, well, it’s more visible now…;) Connect to the Web, and you connect, by definition, to a mother lode of writing – some really good, plenty really bad. And I say what you said all the time: thank goodness for all the bad writing – or we wouldn’t have jobs. But it’s still fun to have a few laughs at the particularly bad examples…

    And SEO writing is a great way to prove our value to our clients. And it’s not as hard as it may seem. Visit Katherine Andes’ site (she wrote a two-parter for the ezine, in the March and April issues about the importance for clients to hire the writer first). She’s a great resource for anyone looking to learn more about the craft.


  33. Melisande
    Melisande says:

    I just want to point out that “spinning” articles is commonplace and there are a number of pieces of software available that churn out exactly this sort of garbage. It might have actually been a good article at one point, and then someone spun it 100 times and came out with that. Plop.

    By the way, Peter, thank you for The Well-Fed Writer. It’s my new bible.

  34. kate
    kate says:

    I am clearly late at finding this site but the link came via a fellow garden writer this morning.
    As an article, online or otherwise, it is pathetic. As a rewrite – it looks like the first was a non-English speaker being paid poorly, and the second was a poorly paid, but slightly better, rewrite(rewrites are cheaper than articles to buy). The cheap online writer uses the top three sites to get the information and makes an ‘article’ from that – the how-to for this is all over the internet giving tips for an article in 15 minutes flat. The calibre of the site was set by the header which linked to a porn on my visit. Did I mention that the writer did not have a web page, no info page, no about me page, nothing. That smells wrong.
    How many times do we have to say ‘you get what you pay for’?
    Sadly the internet has found a thousand and one people who think they can write, and with so many web pages that need content the marketplace is swamped. Which in turn, due to supply and demand, drives down prices.
    Major sites such as How-To etc use article mills such as Demand to supply their content. Demand has editors that throw back badly written articles, but for decent material for these major sites they pay $15!!!!
    At some stage the reality that quality content is king will sink into the brain of those who need decent web site content to drive customer to the site, but with so many decent, but cheap writers I am not sure that the cream will ever rise to the top – kinda like the 2%milk we now drink which has no cream.

  35. M. X.
    M. X. says:

    But you see the problem today is the reader. I think perhaps most people have no idea what good writing is. Or, my biggest fear, bad writing is seen as good, and good writing is seen as bad. Perhaps we can blame reality TV and the general mediocrity that is so celebrated in our society today. Or maybe it’s social media, with instant messages with little forethought an editing. In any case, it’s amazing how much horrible writing today is passed off as good.

  36. Kendra
    Kendra says:

    I just checked the link (today is November 21, 2011) – and apparently the site no longer exists. Poor writing indeed to bring down a site – or poor business practices. We’ll probably never know.

  37. Peter Wise
    Peter Wise says:

    Leaving aside the abysmal quality of the writing, I just love the idea of encouraging vines to grow all over your garden swing. How, pray, are you expected to use it with stuff growing over it? Do you wait until the vines are good and dense, then leap on and burst Tarzan-like through the foliage going ‘Aye…ayeyiyaiaya…ayeiyahiya!’?

    (How is Tarzan’s call spelled by the way?)

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Optionally add an image