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Best Writing Tips Ever! The Internet Edition

August 26, 2012
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook

Has Mark Zuckerberg ever fired an employee for writing something stupid on Facebook? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The great thing about the internet from a literacy point of view is that more people than ever are writing.  The problem is that a lot of these people writing aren’t truly writers.  They’re talkers, using writing as a tool.  Talkers are charming and personable, so when they say something tacky, people laugh and forgive it. 

But when a charming talker tweets a tacky comment or puts it on Facebook or email, it can be seen by countless people who don’t know how personable and charming the charming talker really is. Then the charming talker ends up getting fired, losing friends, or has to make embarrassing, insincere apologies. 

“Best Writing Tips Ever! The Internet Edition” is a tool for charming talkers (or anybody else) who want/need to write on the internet (email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) but don’t want to lose friends or get fired for it. “Best Writing Tips Ever!” is not about grammar or punctuation.  Once you have mastered writing on the internet without getting fired, then you can worry about the grammar and punctuation. 

But until then, concentrate on these rules. 

  •  Don’t write too much online. 

Yeah, that can take the fun out of writing, but the less writing you put on the internet, the less stupid stuff that can get traced back to you.  If you do have to write, short responses are great.  My e-mails, texts, and Facebook entries are filled with “Yes,” “No,” and “I’ll get back you later.” 

Short responses keep you from keyboarding snide remarks that can come back to haunt you.  If you say “This job sucks,” to a co-worker, you can always deny it if the boss comes down on you.  If you write “This job sucks” in an email, tweet, or Facebook entry, there is no plausible deniability.  Saying somebody hacked into your account doesn’t work anymore, even if somebody did hack into your account. 

  •  Avoid writing about personal problems. 

Don’t get me wrong; I love reading about other people’s problems.  But if you choose to write about it publicly, a lot of people who aren’t really your friends are going to read it.  You’re basically providing free entertainment to readers you don’t know.   And if the readers do know you, it can lead to awkward situations later. 

The possibility of having an awkward situation will not stop acquaintances (or employers) from reading about your personal problems (and making comments behind your back).  The only way to stop this is to not write about your personal problems.  If you absolutely need to write about your problems, don’t publish (or send) what you wrote. 

  •  Do not admit to personal vices. 

Vices are really fun.  Whether it’s getting drunk, getting high, hanging out with strippers (helping them through college), tearing up property during a protest, it’s best if you don’t brag about it.  If you do write about your vices, make it sound fictional. 

  •  Leave job related issues at work 

Writing is a blast, but getting paid is way better.  If I ever criticize my boss or employer or anybody who is giving me money, I do it behind the scenes so that it can’t get traced back to me.  I’m not going to put it in an e-mail, or a tweet, or on Facebook. 

And the few times I absolutely have to take a stand (it happens!), I am very careful about what I write.  At the very least, that means deleting a lot of adjectives. 

  •  Don’t write jokes that aren’t funny. 

Yeah, I know this whole blog is filled with jokes that aren’t funny.  I get it.  At least when I write a bunch of lame, tasteless jokes, I’ll title it something like BEST LAME, TASTELESS, OFFENSIVE PORN JOKES EVER!  You know what to expect from me, there’s a context to the lame jokes, and I don’t attach them to my name, or my employer, or anybody who knows me. 

  •   Don’t write when you are emotional. 

It’s okay to write stuff when you’re angry, or sad, or exhilarated, or in any other extreme emotion.  But you’d be better off waiting until you’re in the right frame of mind before you actually publish it.  Extremely emotional tweets can be very entertaining, but most people don’t write emotional stuff to entertain; they write extremely emotional stuff to vent. 

Venting should be done in private.  Then when you’re calm, go over it (delete all the adjectives and insults), and then… maybe… think about publishing it. 

  •   Stay away from writing utensils or apparatuseseses when you are drunk (or in a similar condition). 

When you’re drunk (or in a similar condition), you don’t have control over your faculties (or is it “facilities”?), so obviously you shouldn’t be writing.  The problem is that people who aren’t in control of their faculties often don’t realize they aren’t in control of their faculties.  I once wrote (what I thought was) an awesome joke when I wasn’t in control of my faculties and the next morning realized it said something like: “Lkomp gmbpg  ju  tyggdew bjklr!”

One commenter said it was the best joke I had ever written. 

  •   Do not write when you are in a hurry (unless you’re going to get fired or a bad grade for having nothing). 

Always take a moment to think through your writing before you publish it.  I once had a writing instructor say that a writer should leave a rough draft alone for six months before proofreading it.  Unfortunately, I did that with my tweets, and got stuck with a bunch of 140 character “LeBron James chokes” jokes that are out of date. 

Still, if you’re tweeting or texting, at least look them over closely before you send them.  Think about the appropriateness of what you wrote and make sure the automatic spell check didn’t mess anything up. 

  •   Do not multi-task while writing. 

Some activities can be multi-tasked, and others can’t.  I can fold my laundry and watch football at the same time.  But there are at least three things you shouldn’t multi-task during:  driving, reading legal documents, and writing. 

Writing while doing something else can lead to disastrous mistakes.  Yeah, it might just be a missing word, but it could also mean sending the wrong message (“My job sucks!”) to the wrong people (your employers).  And that’s way worse than using the wrong form of  “their” or “two.” 

*****

Some people may complain that following my advice will lead to really boring writing on the internet.  That would happen only if everybody followed my advice.  The world is full of people who don’t follow advice, no matter how wise it is, so there will always be people who write entertaining stuff (and get fired for it). 

Just make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

7 Comments
  1. I’ve got another one…don’t write until you’re awake. I’ve had a couple of typo whoppers before the coffee kicked in. Uh-oh. I’m drinking a beer while writing this comment. Just re-read…I think I’m good. : )

  2. The Black Rose permalink

    Best internet writing guide I’ve ever seen! Thanks for writing down the things we all should already know.

  3. Pretty good! But somebody’s got to be entertaining, as you say, and get fired for it..might as well be me!

  4. Dave permalink

    Fantastic tips!

  5. To add to your first point, I’ve found that internet communication is a bit backwards. In a pub or bar, it’s normally good to be the person with the most to say – taken as being a sign of your own social prowess. However, on the internet, it’s usually the completely opposite. So what we have is a system of communication which discourages communication…

  6. Well done. Unfortunately some people will never get it.

  7. Boring, no. Safe, yes. But sometimes safe is boring. Is that going to come back to haunt me?

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