Write like I need to understand what you mean

| 1 Comment

"I would be naive to claim that everyone is free to write as he or she pleases, especially when a job depends on protecting an employer's self-interest. Maybe the writers of [the letter given before this quote about an auto recall] felt coerced into writing it as they did. But that doesn't mitigate the consequences. When we knowingly write in ways that we would not want others to write to us, we abrade the trust that sustains a civil society." - Joseph Williams, page 138 from Style

The letter that Williams write the above quote to is an example of an auto recall letter that he actually received. Essentially, it doesn't make readers feel that they are in real danger, nor does it in a simple way say "If you don't take your car to be fixed right now, your car's hood might fly up suddenly while driving, the front suspension pivot plate bar might fall off without reason leaving you to be unable to stop when braking very hard, and you might die either directly or indirectly from these malfunctions." See? I just shoved the seven sentences of the letter into one that unequivocally tells readers that there is a serious reason their vehicle is being recalled.

But Williams also concedes that not everyone can write in such a simple manner. If they did, they'd be promptly fired for damaging their employer. Then again, simply because writing something so every layman can understand what you're writing about shouldn't be compromised if it's a serious issue. ie. People possibly dying if they don't have their cars serviced. This is the snafu of ethics and writing, which is maybe why Williams saved this for the last lesson. I think it's ultimately up to the individual to decide what they can tolerate writing. At least for myself I know writing an ambiguous death statement won't sit well with me.

Take a look at what my peers have to say on this final lesson.

1 Comment

This sort of morality or code of ethics is what keeps me from writing for advertising. I love learning about how people work and being able to manipulate them is tempting, but to manipulate them out of money or for something I feel they don't need is just beyond my limit. I think I would feel even dirtier if I accepted a large sum of money for that kind of writing.

But, as in the letter, I see how some writers are stuck. However, it is this sort of writing that is misleading or full of holes that lead people to distrust big businesses whether it is the car industry or a new facebook privacy policy.

Leave a comment