Dealing with Other Peoples’ Writing

17 January, 2020

I’ve been putting words to paper and screen professionally for … well, at lot longer than I sometimes care to admit. While I’m definitely not a great writer, I like to think that I do OK. And I like to think that I know good writing when I read it.

At various Day JobsTM and when I worked as a freelance editor, I regularly ran into some pretty shocking prose. Quite a bit of that prose came from the keyboards of other professional writers.

I’m talking about seemingly endless sentences. About the overuse of marketing/tech/business speak. About passive sentences. About people who write like they’re trying impress or are working on the world’s driest academic thesis.

I’m not one of those writers who expects everyone to be able to write at my level (or better). I don’t get overly wound up about how poorly some people, including pros, write.

That said, if poor prose is dropped in my lap, I can’t let it stand.

A good chunk of my work at the current Day JobTM over the last three years has been reshaping other peoples’ writing. Trying to streamline it, to improve the flow and structure, to make it more active, to give it more punch.

A lot of hours have gone into that. But I’m not sure it’s making a difference. Some days, I feel like I’m spitting into the Sun. No matter what, I’m compelled to keep trying.

Why? If I didn’t, I wouldn’t feel good about any of my work or the work that I’ve taken over.

Scott Nesbitt