• Barbara Roy

Writing Tip: Practice self-restraint

As a professional writer you will find, everywhere you go, someone, if not everyone, believes s/he is a writer. A blog article by Ben Freeland of Brush Talk offers some good insights into why this is. For the purposes of this tip, I'll abbreviate the reasons he suggests here:

1. We all do it in one form or another

2. It's not generally taught on an extracurricular basis

3. Bad writing is often less immediately apparent than, say, bad music or bad drawing

4. Most people don't really do that much reading

5. Schools reinforce bad writing habits

6. These days, everybody with a blog can be a writer

This tip is about practicing self-restraint because you will run up against colleagues or superiors routinely who will feel completely justified in telling you how to do your job. I would have said, "practice humility" instead, if that were true, but writing is not a lowly craft, it is a professional one that requires intense study and excellence, like any other.

Certainly, remind yourself (and sometimes others), that working with words, doing research, interviewing, and learning and deeply understanding usages, punctuation, tone, style and positioning is your daily gig while their expertise is something else. Also however, let some things go, even when they're just opinions (it could be worse, say, when someone proposes mutilated verbiage, aka bad construction, of the same thing, except s/he believes it illuminates the topic). Some arguments aren't worth it, especially if the collective whole won't benefit from the distinction. If you're lucky enough to work with colleagues and managers who excel at their roles and respect yours enough to stay in their lane, thank your lucky stars.

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