Content Writing isn’t for You

Writing is tough. Really tough.  And chances are, you aren’t great at it. Chances are even greater that you don’t care. You  probably aren’t a content producer.  But if you’re not, who is?  And who should be?

You suck at writing

Unless it’s in your job description, the only thing of substance  you’ve written since high school or college are IMs, texts,  emails and tweets.  That means to me that your stopping point is 160 characters and it isn’t even on paper. It also means that you can’t write very well.

I have a 9-5  job that requires writing skills.  I write rules and requirements for developers. I send emails to employees informing them of various issues. I also write instructions and guidelines. Writing poorly affects my livelihood. Writing well means I get to go home on time.

My previous jobs at my company also demanded that I be able to communicate with customers.  I had to communicate very complex ideas in a simple way.  I had to read, write, and proof-read on a minute-by-minute basis. My words were going to a customer – and even though I had a cute little “don’t share this” message at the bottom of my emails, my words were free to that customer for redistribution.  I had to write effectively because my company’s reputation was at stake.  I also had to write effectively, because I didn’t want them writing back asking me to rephrase.

You don’t care about writing

There are many jobs in the world that require “effective communication”. In fact, that’s something that’s on just about every job description in America.  Effective communication doesn’t mean “effective writing”.   Fifty years ago, when Television was a teenager and Radio  a young adult, writing was an invaluable skill. It was the only medium to share ideas with another person.  In the office, people wrote memorandums instead of emails, and the only quality check was their own two eyes.  Our 160 character spellchecking  world does not place demand on the ordinary person to be an effective writer.

You aren’t producing real content regularly

The advent of Computers and its children  Email, Instant Messaging, Mobile Phones, and micro-blogging has reduced the available pool of talented writers. I’m old enough (28) to vaguely remember spelling lessons. I learned to spell because computers were not in everyone’s pockets, and subsequently we didn’t have spell-check or auto-correct.  I learned grammar because a computer was not yet available to stop me from saying go over their.

In a world of spell-check and 160 characters, there is no demand for the average person to be a writer. You can communicate effectively in an email so long as spell-check is turned on and you don’t type in all caps.  Your texts and IMs use abbreviations and your tweets are said in a breath. You email customer service with a two line question. You call them for a complaint.  You  have no reason to write a long message because you can send 10 short ones.

So who is writing content?

The only  people kicking out pages of the written word at a time are ones with writing in their job description: Journalists, Writers, Business Analysts, Copy Writers,  Researchers, Professors, Lawyers, and maybe Doctors.  I know the list is short – I can’t think of others at the moment.

After school, and outside of work, there is no reason for the average person to write more than maybe 4 paragraphs (in one message)  in a week.

There’s one other group that is writing regularly: Bloggers. Blogging transcends the profession of writing. The blogger is the person who enjoys the written word and does it regularly. The blogger is the 21st century author.

So who do you want writing your web content?

I see the trend today in web-writing: Journalism majors. Sure, I see English majors, too, but the vast majority of web writers have degrees in Journalism.  But is that who you want?

Get your foreign language students on Twitter

English majors today know nothing of grammar. Twitter is 160 characters of annihilation of the English language.  If you want a grammarian, hire someone with a degree in a foreign language.  My degrees in French and Spanish taught me more about grammar than all of my English classes combined. English classes focus on literature. Language classes require grammar. A bonus? Now you can tweet in two languages.

Journalism students aren’t journalists, they’re web writers

Journalism students learn about voices. They learn about audiences. They also know how to be balanced. They can tell you what happened in as few words as possible. A bonus? Newspapers are dropping like flies, so they’re cheap.

Get your bloggers creating content

They do it for fun. Now pay them. Who’s a blogger nearby? They always have something to talk about, so all you’re doing is redirecting the energy.  A bonus? They already know the web.

Get your English majors to get creative

Sure, they probably lack a strong command of the English language, but they’ve studied literature. That means they can identify themes in writing. It also means they can get very creative when you’re looking for a new way to approach writing. Who doesn’t want an esoteric reference to The Metamorphosis in their skin care blog? A bonus? They work at Starbucks.