Hire A Writer. Please!


Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was just reading an incredibly interesting web page about a new sort of guitar cable – an analogue optical guitar cable.

The company that has developed it is getting ready for the NAMM show – the biggest music industry trade show of the year. I’d say they are looking for a company to manufacture the cable under license.

They have certainly spent some money on developing the product they even have patents pending so they probably hired a patent attorney. They spent some money on a promotional video. They have a well designed logo and the product looks well designed.

I also assume that even a small booth at NAMM costs a fair bit. The two original inventors have also expanded the team.

The one thing they haven’t spent money on is a technical writer for their web page. The errors in grammar and sentence construction are one thing but I suspect that the person who wrote it may not have English as their first language – there is some strange word misuse such as “resolve” for “resolution” or “solution”.

So we have a small group of people who have spent serious money to get a product onto the floor at NAMM but don’t believe they need to spend money on a writer. The attitude is usually “I know how to write a sentence, I know how to talk.” Of course they are wrong. Just let me show you. Here’s the second paragraph :-

Our background is in music management of which we have had worldwide success. The cable has been developed from a problem our guitarist had on stage when his cable acted as an aerial. The original concept inventor, David Holmes, who is also a sound engineer, wanted to solve this problem – realising that there was no resolve available on the market, invented our optical analogue cable. We have undertaken worldwide market research, a full business plan, and we now have made a fully functioning working models.

Here’s a quick edit :-

We developed the cable after a guitarist we manage (our background is worldwide music management) had a problem on stage with a cable that acted as an aerial. David Holmes, a sound engineer, wanted to develop a solution himself once he realised there was none available and invented our optical analog cable.

We have undertaken worldwide market research, developed a full business plan and made several fully functional models.

Notice a couple of things. I haven’t buried the lede (why the cable was developed) and I’ve separated the two different ideas in the original paragraph. Then I’ve simplified the sentence structure and fixed the problem with “resolve”.

Have a look at the entire web page and the video on it. Compare the web page to these three pages that must have been written after some sort of press release. The blog posts are much better written with the important information much more easily found. Speaking of burying the lede, the most important 3 paragraphs on this web page for anyone deciding to make or sell this product are the last three.

According to the FAQ (which they call “Frequent Questions & Answers” rather than “Frequently Asked Questions”) the video has been produced specifically for their booth at NAMM. Did you notice the spelling and punctuation errors in the video? I saw at least four in a quick run through.

Now I’m not actually a professional technical writer these days, though I did spend some time as a tech writer and editor years ago. I also didn’t spend some time talking to the client and getting an idea of what the web page is meant to do and tailored the text to requirements so that isn’t a perfect example but I think it gives you the idea. There are real differences in the output of a mediocre writer, a good writer and a great one.

It’s also true that people make judgements about your business based on the quality of the writing in communications – and that’s in everything from tweets through Facebook updates, blog posts and web pages to pamphlets and signs.

I also have to say that it’s not a comment on you our your professional skills to admit you aren’t the best writer. One of the things I’ve noticed in a University environment is that the senior academics all know this innately, they recognise and value expertise. I had one researcher at Sydney Uni with two PhD’s and a Nobel Prize who made a point of personally coming to thank me when I fixed a computer for anyone in his research team and I knew that every press release for his team and every letter he wrote to a journal was co-written by the marketing team at the Uni. He was confident enough in himself that he could admit that others had expertise that was useful to him.

So you be the same if you run a small business, please. Admit that you aren’t the best writer you know and even the best need a good editor and either use a talented friend or hire a professional to do your writing.

3 thoughts on “Hire A Writer. Please!

  1. Part of reply message from a query I wrote to Apple:

    “My name is Camille, your dedicated iTunes Store Advisor for today. I understand that you haven’t receive the email for your Apple ID reset. I acknowledge the importance of this matter. Let me look into this for you….. I hope that I was able help resolve your concern. Should there be a need for further assistance, never hesitate to contact us again and rest assured that your issue will be attended to with utmost importance.”

    My issue should be OF the utmost importance, but attended to with urgency. I hadn’t RECEIVED the email for my Apple ID reset. And how often do we say to each other, “I acknowledge the importance of this matter”?

    Unfortunately, on this level, every company will choose not to pay to use customer service reps whose native language happens to be mine.

    I would love to be a technical writer!.

    • That’s a far too common tale. You would think that the training they give to the staff in India and Indonesia included the proper use of some stock phrases since most of your example is stock phrases.

      • What I always find the most annoying is the tacking together of stock phrases without realizing what they mean and figuring that if one is placed right after the other, usually with as many as possible involved, it’s gotta be right!

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