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The sad tale of the applicant writer who didn’t make the cut.

I’ve been reading a lot of book excerpts, screenplay pages, short stories, poems and lyrics lately. I’m evaluating writers to fill out the staff here.

What I’m looking for is exceptional talent. But it’s not simply a matter of how well a writer can form words to carry a scene or make a point. It’s also about the execution of same. What inspired this blog post is an article I’m reading about an Internet deejay. It’s entertaining and absorbing to read. The writer has some serious resume credits. But also has some serious grammatical problems.

Grammar can trip up a writer so easily. It’s not that I’m a grammar Nazi. Well, maybe I am. But here’s the point: Not only do you need to be an excellent wordsmith to work here, you also need to execute the work properly. We write for others. If you can’t tell a client’s story well, that client will be unhappy. If you do tell the story well but that story suffers grammatical problems, the client will be unhappy about that, too.

Writers hoping to find a spot here need to be able to compose with words and execute the structure and grammar properly.

This isn’t necessarily about formal education. Some people have natural talent with language and instinctively understand grammar. Folks like that may be dynamite writers by the time they finish high school, while others with masters degrees will still be making silly mistakes. The level of formal education isn’t really important to me. What I want is imagination and skill. I’ll take a brilliant writer with decent grammatical skills any day of the week. If you can paint with words and not stumble over commas and apostrophes in the art studio (so to speak), I’ll want to talk with you.

In the case of the writer whose work I was reading before diverting to write this post, the writing is very good but the grammatical execution thereof is severely lacking. Why in the world would a writer send a defective sample to the one doing the hiring? From a business standpoint, here’s the problem: The writer’s work would need an editor to fix the problems before the work can be returned to the client. That just slows things down and drives up cost.

I need the client to be happy. I want the client to refer us to others. I want clients to say nice things about us on Yelp. The writer needs to have exceptional writing skill and exceptional skill at not using wrong words (elicit/illicit, to/too, your/you’re), not putting a space after an opening parenthesis, not putting commas where they don’t belong, knowing when to not use apostrophes, knowing when to use single or double quote marks, and so on.

These are fundamental writing skills. The writer who inspired this post will need to look elsewhere for work.

Okay, who’s next?

 

Michael McKown

Journalist and specialty magazine editor/publisher for 22 years and co-founder of Ghostwriters Central in 2002.

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