Epic Writer Fail: 5 Ways to Avoid Pitfalls
Yesterday I posted a simple opinion piece about celebrity. I learned a few things. First, there is nothing simple about anything we write. Second, if you’re writing an opinion, someone might disagree. Otherwise they’d call it fact. This was my
first most recent epic writer fail. Thus, I studied why I failed and what can be learned about writing from this experience.
- There is almost nothing that cannot be interpreted differently from what you think you’re writing. I thought I was writing about Bill Cosby and how, just because he was famous and has a house on my street, I wasn’t knowledgeable about his crime, nor was I surprised by it. I meant to convey that just because someone is famous and near you, that doesn’t mean you actually know them or have a reason to believe they won’t commit a heinous crime. I suggested actors and politicians present themselves to us differently, although both are famous. That’s what I thought I wrote. What some readers thought I said was that I was bragging about having a house on his street (I wasn’t, that’s just a fact and believe me, my house is nothing like his mansion!) and that I didn’t care about his (alleged) victims. OMG, that’s not what I meant at all.
- If your work is being misread, that’s likely your fault. Having read the reactions I took another look at what I’d written. I could see why some readers couldn’t make out what I meant. My writing seemed clear to me but upon that reread with fresh eyes, I saw where I went wrong.
- Slow down, good editing cannot be rushed. I was posting away from home and it’s likely I wasn’t being as careful as I normally am. I hurried when I should have taken more time to edit. It’s good policy to step away from something you’ve written and then come back to read it again before hitting the Publish button. I didn’t do that and it cost me in credibility.
- Sarcasm is sensitive business. Snarky tones likely work better in voice than in print. Intonation matters. I once sent an email to a client that she misinterpreted and sent me a nasty email in response. I could see she had completely misread my message. I wrote back to her and started out with something like this: “I’m so sorry you…” I meant it sincerely, I was really sorry about the misunderstanding. But she read that message with a totally different tone than I intended and thought I was maligning her. Calling her enabled us to work it out. But you can’t call all of your readers, so you really have to watch tone.
- Own your mistakes. I thanked the commenters for letting me know where I went wrong. I edited the piece. I asked for forgiveness. We’ll see how that goes…