I’ve been through a week of angst – my job requires me to write (though only a small part of it), and I am no great writer like many I’ve seen on the blogosphere. It probably doesn’t mean much when I say I’m frustrated. Whatever I went through cannot be worse than the feeling writers get as their work is edited, rejected, smashed and thrown back unforgivingly. Before I start the rant, I’ll take the opportunity to express respect to writers. I know writers who spend above a good 250 hours fixing up the index and making sure that the book is are impeccable. So much goes on backstage of a book before it surfaces on the market, everyone deserves a round of applause (less those who choose to paraphrase others’ work, not proofread, throw together a pile of text pretending they are sentences – symbolic of an insult to academics & writers). My frustrations are hence beneath minor, but I question about writing styles hereafter.
So here I begin. I strongly believe that everyone has a dominant writing style, one that appears in his everyday conversations (eg. personal interactions, blog, texts, social media sites, whatever). But when it comes to writing for work purposes, we vary it as per contextual requirements. Clearly an informative news article doesn’t hold the same approach as a sales copy, and a personalised letter to appeal to emotions should not mirror an article review. Every piece of text is produced with a different purpose, and in writing, one should respect the rationale for the text. I am no expert at this and at times I am too, guilty of allowing my preferred style to govern my writing. But a (self-proclaimed) redeeming factor is my acknowledgement of my weaknesses and I try to get an unbiased opinion, surveying people whom I know are entirely different from myself.
My frustration begins when inflexibility prevails. Comprehensibly, people higher up the chain holds the power to make decisions and have their own ideas of what works and what not. That in itself is not a problem. But when supposed emotional-baggages eclipse logic, the problem emerges. It was the final throw – Alarm bells were ringing for us, and for whoever was reading it. Some sense of urgency was needed, and there clearly wasn’t much time left to conduct an educational-awareness class for the audience. I felt it was important to get to the point within a stipulated word limit and no-one was going to spend the next hour listening to the history of x, the evolution of x, the problems x faced etc and more. Not unless, of course, you were writing a textbook or something.
At the end of a long-drawn to-and-fro virtual conversation, I came to a revelation that the problem laid in the “negative outlook” implied from the text – it wasn’t nice to make the situation look all “sad and challenging”. Not appreciated. I wasn’t angry; I simply couldn’t understand how that was a problem – this is merely a writing tactic – a challenge, a call to action. In every marketing campaign we see a different angle, an approach that varies according to the audience. I heard from a wonderful marketer recently that men didn’t like being nagged at – selling a product based on its merits wasn’t enough. Instead, challenging them to use the product might be a better approach (in this example, it was a health checkup testkit. Simply put, we all know the benefits of a regular health check-up but we wouldn’t do much about it. The campaign was a success when it challenged men to see who had the healthiest heart, best cholesterol levels etc).
Similarly as I wrote, it was imperative that I challenged those who were in their comfort zone – telling them how things have changed & how it could be beneficial really wasn’t enough. They had to see the problems and how they could give it a quick-fix before things spiraled out of hand. It needed to be concise and impactful. How could a run-of-the-mill text do the job? How can one write with a standard style, much like a cut from the mould template, all the time? I did what was requested, but I couldn’t concur.
I do not purport that my style is better than others. I merely wish to raise the possibility of incorporating more openness to novelty, more creativity and more flexibility in writing within reasonable means. We all have a personalised writing style that we stick by at most times. But with logic and expediency, we manipulate our style to suit the situation and context. I wish to write in whatever way I’ll like, but I do not insist that I have things my way. We all practise some discretion as to when our insistence makes sense and when it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, be open to others’ opinions.