Confessions of an Editor, Part Two

Since I took my recent editing gig at an Internet publication and e-commerce site I won’t name here, I’ve jumped into the hiring game headfirst. I put out a recent call for writers and as expected, I was flooded with responses.

Regular readers of this site may recall me complaining in my last Confessions entry about a good 50% of the replies, which are totally useless. I won’t be responding to any of them because of a simple inability to follow directions. I won’t even send a mean-spirited note to say, “Drop dead!”

A disturbingly large portion of the responses–with or without my automatic dismissal based on the above–also had shoddy grammar in the cover letter, and writing samples riddled with errors. Folks, here’s a FREE WRITING SECRET for you straight from the desk of yours truly;

When you submit a writing sample there are two things to consider before clicking the “send” button. The first consideration is making the writing samples as relevant as possible to the gig at hand. If you don’t have related clips, send what you can, but keep the second consideration firmly in mind–the writing sample should be some of your BEST WORK.

If you send in a writing sample that is completely on target in terms of style, tone, and relevance but is full of problems and errors, you have wasted your time. Sending an unrelated, but well crafted piece gets you closer to “yes” because the editor can clearly see that your writing work DOES NOT SUCK.

I’ll say it again–two considerations;

1. The samples must be as relevant as humanly possible to the gig in question.

2. The samples MUST NOT SUCK.

Here’s the thought process of an editor at work while reading an on-target sample which sucks:

“Ahh, let’s see here. ‘What George Lucas Did At Last Night’s Party’. OK, that’s on target since this is a fictitious celeb gossip magazine I’m the editor of here, let’s read the rest.  Whoops! Mistaken use of the apostrophe. Bad sign, there. Not the end of the world, let’s read on. Oh, no…wait. You did NOT just write “chalk full of fun” when you meant “CHOCK ful of fun.” Kiddo, don’t use a phrase you don’t know how to spell properly.”

“Oh, hey, lookie here! This dweeb writes, ‘Carrie Fisher drove Ed Harris, Tina Turner and Vanna White to the station. The actor shouted at oncoming traffic and threw soda cans out the window.’  Too bad we’ll never know whether this writer meant Carrie Fisher, Ed Harris or Tina Turner was throwing cans and shouting.”

By this point, it’s over. I roundfiled four resumes today for just these sorts of infractions. I am cruel, but I refuse to saddle myself to a writer who not only can’t help the poor reader figure out what’s going on in these articles, but actually submits these disasters to ME as an incentive to HIRE THEM.

Don’t let it happen to you…DOUBLE CHECK YOUR COPY before submitting. Otherwise…well, now you know. One of these days I’m going to have to start charging money for these pearls of wisdom. Enjoy this column while you can, freelancers. One day it won’t be free any longer–but how long will it take for that to happen? Spread the world–my editorial advice is free while supplies last.

One thought on “Confessions of an Editor, Part Two”

  1. Hi, Joe,
    I am enjoying your advice to writers about relevance and spelling.
    What’s your favorite mangling of the written word? The most constant in my experience is misuse of the apostrophe, closely followed by “I” when “me” is the object of a verb or preposition. Saying “jive” for “jibe” also crops us in conversations with people who should know better. A famous writer objected to the phrase, “I don’t think . . .” He said that we do think, and we shouldn’t deny it! As for myself, I wish I were as competent with language as I would like to be. 🙂

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