Why Writing Well Matters, Even When Your Product Is Free

KeyboardI am reading an ebook that I picked up for free when I signed up for someone’s mailing list. The information in the free ebook is valid and fairly useful; however, the free ebook is full of typos and misuses of words. I’m not talking about one or two minor errors. I could get over that. We’re all human. I make mistakes, too.

Notice I keep pointing out that this was a free ebook? There’s a reason, and it’s not an attempt to keyword stuff this post. Some people would ask me, “Why are you complaining about the typos when you got the book for free?”

Here’s the answer: Because I’m still investing my time into reading this ebook. If the author didn’t care enough to proofread, yet this is the author’s “sales pitch” or “can’t miss giveaway” that’s supposed to make me want to hire the author in the future, it’s ultimately a fail for me. I don’t want to work with people who rush to get their own “best work” out the door. If that’s the level of commitment to their own stuff, why would they work harder or better on mine?

Am I being too harsh about writing? I don’t think so. Writing isn’t everyone’s best subject, and that’s OK. But, it’s so easy to use spelling and grammar checks that catch several errors. It’s so easy to look up the meaning of words and sayings–you can Google everything. It’s even easy to ask your friend, co-worker, or even someone online to proofread and edit your ebook. When confused about a particular part of speech or clause, it’s easy to rewrite and omit anything you’re not sure about. That level of commitment shows that you not only care about the messages you’re writing, but the package they’re in. Notice that I’m not talking about perfect sentence construction based on strict (or outdated) grammar rules. I end sentences with prepositions all the time.

Here’s a different way of looking at it. If I’m going to write about a topic I’m not an expert in, such as golf, I’m going to research and write and check my facts before I publish. I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone on the subject matter, so I’m going to do my best to make sure it’s accurate. A golf expert who writes an article should be equally concerned with how it’s written, guaranteeing that the words and punctuation are correct and that the article flows well for the reader. We all have to work at things to create our best work.

The moral of the story (not morale) is that we should all do everything to the best of our ability, even when what we offer is free. Otherwise, why do it at all?

If you’re still not convinced that writing matters, check out this article on LinkedIn by Dave Kerpen, an author, speaker, and CEO. The comments beneath the article provide some insight about how others feel about writing, too. He explains that you need to write well to be taken seriously. He also provides some helpful tips for developing these writing skills. One tip that really helps me is to read what I’ve written out loud. I can read words really quickly, and the more familiar I am with my own work, the less I tend to catch how weird it sounds. When I speak the words out loud, I catch inconsistencies and weirdness. Then I can revise.

Just for fun, what words or styles confuse you? What irks you about other people’s writing. Any examples that made you take someone less seriously?

6 thoughts on “Why Writing Well Matters, Even When Your Product Is Free

  1. Hi Jill,
    Big pet peeve of mine. I know we’re human and all but as a freelancer, I spend more time proofing my work than creating it. Well… not quite, but it occasionally seems like it.
    I still have picked up errors even after it’s published. Bad writing and dumb auto correct mistakes – seem vs seam, peek vs peak and the like – I’m outta there like a scalded cat.

    I really enjoyed the article.

  2. Great post! I wish more indy authors agreed with you; I’m afraid the “self-publishing” stigma will continue as long as writers insist on throwing everything and anything out into the world without editing/proofreading.

  3. Pingback: Why Writing Well Matters, Even When Your Product Is Free | change it up editing

  4. Pingback: Business Communication Pet Peeve #1: Spelling and Pronouncing Names Incorrectly |

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