|Meet Dr. Franken-Copy
By: Jerry Northup
When writers lift information from different sources, but do little else other than to narrowly avoid plagiarism, what you get is an odd “Franken-Copy” structure where the stitches are plain to see in poorly reproduced and terribly misaligned language. Reading this “new” creation, you can practically see the misshapen words slowly stumble forward like zombies. This kind of writing is frighteningly real, appearing on a disturbingly more frequent basis. But take heart; copy of this being is most certainly NOT alive.
What you re-write through will make you stronger. Just because an individual knows a subject inside and out does not mean they know how to write about it. Trouble is, many times, they can’t really explain it very well either, which is why it is sometimes possible to see a Jacob’s ladder form above a writer’s head in frustration.
This will rarely earn you kudos toward a promotion, but remaining silent while bad copy stumbles off is a mistake. If you take a pass, it may haunt you forever (or until the villagers chase you down).
- Don’t leave any words on the table. If you do, the subject matter expert that gave you the jargon will hit you with it as soon as you look away, knocking your draft completely unconscious. Generally speaking, unless a line is a complete throwaway or useless insider terminology, you’ve got to account for it. Try to find a way to work in the broken pieces before they reanimate themselves in later drafts.
- Criticism feeds off other criticism. Many readers with titles above yours are already looking for what’s wrong before they start reading. Others simply start the rewriting process at that point. Generally, writers have to please both of those audiences before their words see the light of day. It’s not any fun having your text come back to you in little pieces.
- And why is that arm coming out of that leg socket? It blows me away how some people in my experience are so willing to lop off a large part of body copy and just stick it anywhere. There might be a reason to do so, but I think you’ve got to draw the line if it’s unreasonable.
Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Gerald Northup has written professionally in the fields of advertising, marketing, social media, and corporate communications since the early ’90s. For a look at his blog posts and social media articles, as well as TV, radio, print, and website samples from his online portfolio, visit gnorthup1979.wix.com/44words.
Jerry is also a talented guitarist, an avid tennis player, and a lifelong student of linguistics.
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