Just as with every other industry, freelance writers will receive some feedback and criticism from time to time. This is a good thing, because it gives you an opportunity to improve your approach to writing and, hence, attract more clients and make more money. By bettering your craft, you can become a more valued asset to your clients. This is great when the feedback is offered in a constructive way and points in you a direction that makes your writing better.
And then there is feedback that isn’t quite as useful. These email messages, blog comments, and other forms of communication might simply disagree with your style of writing or the opinion you have expressed. There is still some value to be had here: it may provide me with another opportunity to stand out as a freelancer, not for my writing ability, but for my customer service.
In a Mobile Magazine post about Volvo’s crash-proof technology, I wrote the following:
This is above and beyond, you know, the potential for nagging injuries and potential fatalities.
For my posts on Mobile Magazine, the freelance writing voice that I use is authoritative but casual. I’ll throw in some personal conjecture and colloquial phrases so that the posts are more approachable by a general audience. It seems that not everyone appreciates this kind of tone, however, as evidenced by this email that I received from a reader a short while ago:
This is a nice article and then you had to go and spoil it by writing like a child. The use of terms such as “you know, like, I mean” are primarily used by our children and should not be used by an adult.
When you use the term, you know, in the fashion as shown above, you are potentially suggesting that the reader already knows but the fact of the matter is that we do not know and that we are waiting for you to tell us. The term, you know, as shown above makes no grammatical sense whatsoever and should not be in that sentence.
May I respectfully suggest, that if you are unable to write as an adult, that you cease writing articles for public consumption altogether.
Lorne Babcock Sr.
Mobile Magazine is a technology blog and not a corporate-style news site. If I was covering the exact same Volvo technology in a CNN.com article, for instance, I would obviously avoid colloquial interjections like “I mean”. I keep it casual on Mobile Magazine, because that tone is more in line with the audience that the site attracts. In reference to my use of “you know”, I think it is appropriate because I am simply reminding people of something they already know. Getting into an auto accident is not pleasant, and the potential injuries can be quite bad.
Mr. Babcock is certainly entitled to his opinion and if he feels that Mobile Magazine is inappropriate for adult reading, so be it. I’m going to take the diplomatic approach and keep his feedback in mind the next time I write something for the site. However, I will not “cease writing articles for public consumption altogether.” More people comment positively on my work than negatively, so I must be doing something right.