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October 26, 2007
On Writing Poorly: Singing out for the Day when anyone Takes the Language Seriously

Can’t anyone write?

I realize that bitching and moaning about the state of the English language is old hat but I’m concerned. I work with some of the smartest people I’ve met in eons and yet when I look at the lazy drafts I receive – which aren’t well thought out nor are they really given the merit they deserve – all I can think of is: I’ll pay big money for a writer who needs zero edits.

This would be the first time in six months of writing this column that I’m calling out to the readers. Do you have a hankering to place creative, collaborative and cool words on paper to communicate messages to the world? Then freaking call me. I’m in The Book.

I’m in a service business that communicates sensitive and timely issues. And yet whenever someone shows me a letter, press release, idea, Point of View document, or memo, it’s filled with sentences that are garbled, unoriginal ideas and bad grammar.

Without demeaning the people I know, let’s review in their words why people in Generation Zero (ages 21– 33) don’t write in case you don’t know...

  1. Accountability is the word, not Grease... I mean, someone else will catch the mistakes and I’m really busy.
  2. Words are hard to find, you have to actually stop and consider ‘em
  3. To use clichés is so much easier than making yourself sound original.
  4. Why bother? I mean, really. If you kind of get what I mean haven’t I won?
  5. The truth is (not): “No one reads these.” “The client doesn’t care” :”Let’s just get it done”
  6. Our job is to talk, not write. [That’s the funniest one.]
  7. Spelling is such a pain. Spell Check is hard to use, with all those squiggly lines.
  8. The language is easier on IM. Didn’t I sms that to you a little while ago? Why did you not response (sic), LOL?
  9. My boss’s outlandish expression of horror is fun to see and it seems to be the only exercise he gets, man.
  10. “I don’t need to learn anything, I know it all. Don’t I? I mean, Mom told me that.”
  11. The old farts working here know this stuff much better – they’ll have a go at it..

If you think it's frustrating to spend every other minute editing someone else’s sloppy work that is purely done to get it done (a guy who worked for me once muttered: “Don’t make such a big deal out of it just because it’s only sort of good”) then you are right.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to retire from my business of Public Relations and devote my remaining years on Earth to online tutoring of kids (ages 0 to 29) who want to write better. Get in touch. I’m only a third kidding.

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Richard Laermer is CEO of New York's RLM pr, representing, among others, e-Miles, Epic Advertising, Yodlee, Revolution Money, Group Commerce, Smith & Nephew, and HotChalk. He was host of TLC's cult program Taking Care of Business and speaks on trends and marketing for corporate groups. You can read Laermer on The Huffington Post and on the mischievous but all-too-necessary Bad Pitch Blog. For more like this, follow him on @laermer.

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