First off, this isn’t your typical Writers’ Treasure article. It’s even more brilliantly readable, and it has a completely different subject and tone. It’s not theoretical, and it’s not applicable to creative writers. But for all other kinds of writing, it’s the truest advice I’ve ever written.
Interested? Let’s start the session then.
It’s 2015, and although writers have improved the quality of their writing a lot, other aspects of it have fallen by the wayside.
You might be able to avoid the common mistakes and learn to write frequently. But in the end, none of that matters if you’re making not just a technical mistake, but also a moral and ethical one.
As in, you don’t write the truth.
The difference between being common and being unique
There are terabytes of content being posted on the web. On the print, it’s an older format, so you’ve got even more competition. Lots of noise out there.
If you write something for a purpose and you don’t write the whole truth (i.e. you’re either lying in full or you’re saying a half-truth), then you’re just being one of millions.
Lots of others do that. Of course they do. “You can’t get by just writing the truth all the time.” Excuses. Nothing but excuses.
On the other hand, if you go the extra step, you do the extra work, you go above and beyond what others are doing, then that’s the thing which separates your writing from the thousands of good, but not great writers.
They’re good, you see. So are you. Fine, but the situation is not good enough. If you want to have what it takes to take your writing to a different level, then you’re going to have to make some sacrifices.
You’re going to have to learn to leave nothing out. Nothing necessary. Because eliminating a vital fact is the same as saying a half-truth, and it’s just as despicable, even in the digital era.
Lies, lies and more lies
The Web has made it possible for anyone and everyone to create a website, write whatever what he likes. It doesn’t necessarily have to be true. Generally, it isn’t.
Because who’s going to bother writing the whole truth? When you have the sort of situation where media conglomerates and all the big sites and all the big authors suffer from this problem.
When you have the situation where they also fail at this test. It’s depressing when you think of it.
Have a product? Of course you’re going to have to do some marketing then. Nobody will deny the statement that marketing has been corrupted like almost everything else.
It means that for the majority of the products out there (and they can be anything), the full truth – the entirety of the information needed to be known – isn’t made available.
But that’s just one situation though. You have hundreds of other situations.
Take the example of a simple Terms & Conditions of a website. Normally, it’s supposed to be as thorough as it can be. You do this, you get that, you don’t do this, well, you don’t get that. But if you neglect to mention an undesirable scenario – well, who cares? The majority of your readers don’t read the T&C in full.
But for the ones who do read, you’ve done them a disservice. You’ve done wrong. And in the end, that means you’re one of them, just one of the thousands of this category, not a person standing out, legitimate in his own right.
Covering a political event? Oh, of course, I shouldn’t mention politics as there’s no need at all. The examples are far too many, the intelligence they insult has been insulted so much that it’s now no longer capable of being defined intelligence.
Finance. Entertainment. Technology. Environment. Demographics. All of the major fields containing the writers from the global writing industry, and all of them, I repeat, all of them, being the same. As in, neglecting to write down the whole truth.
Is this what writers are proud of? Is this the improvement, the progress that we’re seeing? Is this what we actually want?
For all of our writing improvements, I state – and I’m not afraid to state it – writers today have less guts, less strength to write things as they are. They don’t know how not to sugar-coat things, not to hide beneath their lies, but to proclaim to the world they’re not interested in a quick ‘pat on the back’, or money. That they have integrity, and that they’re not going to lose it easily.
The reality of the writing industry today
In the years since I’ve founded Writers’ Treasure, I’ve learnt a lot. But there are some things I’ve learnt which overshadow others. As the Internet becomes more popular, we find an inverse relationship in the quality of writing and the ease of use of setting up a new website.
The more the barrier, the cost of access to create your own website goes down, the more the quality of writing deteriorates. Superficiality goes off the charts. Rather than informing the reader as best as the author can, they write solely to increase clicks and views, in short, to get more money as quickly as they can.
To please corporations and the sources of their success, they’re willing to write anything and everything, even if, during the process, they sell their integrity. Instead of giving the long-suffering global consumer segment what it wants (true, relatively unbiased coverage), they betray it.
They betray the whole cause of us, the writers, all of us, the entire community. When you’ve been dealt a job dealing with dissemination of words, you’d better deal carefully. Words are powerful, but words are also dangerous. In the wrong hands, they can do a lot of damage. It’s a delicate craft, the craft of writing.
The takeaway of all this? Depressing. That’s how this thing can be summed up. There were writers in the past who cared about writing the truth, and there are still writers in the present who care about disseminating the truth.
The trouble is, that number goes down every year.
Why writers who write the truth have a bright outlook
In times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. ~ George Orwell
Sure, the above mentioned number of writers with integrity goes down every year. But that trend can and will end. It can and will end because it’s natural that it should end. And at that time, all those writers who don’t act on the right principles, the right ethics – they’re the ones whose popularity will go down.
They’re the ones who the world will no longer give attention to.
And at that moment, it will be your attention to shine.
Even now, you can still stand out. Just because the majority is working in the opposite direction doesn’t mean you have to.
It, in fact, means that you should do the right thing more than ever.
So next time you write something, whether it be as small and low-importance such as a society memo, or as big and of global importance such as coverage of an ongoing high-level event, do the right thing. Don’t leave out anything. Don’t sell integrity: one of the most fundamental characteristics of a great writer.
Write down the truth.
Writing not containing the truth = bad writing
I debated on whether we should replace the term of good writing by effective writing, since that’s a more realistic term and one that’s measurable. After all, good writing is not something anyone can define.
But here, I think everyone agrees that whatever good writing is, it contains the truth (again, I’m not speaking of creative writing as mentioned from the beginning).
Writing which contains lies and / or half-truths may be effective in the short run. It may, in fact, be extraordinarily effective. But it can never attain the status of goodness. And you should forget about your writing attaining the status of greatness.
What you and I can do
We can’t change everything, but what we can do is to focus, focus on complete coverage, writing down all the information that should be given. We should focus on never substituting an embarrassing fact for one which makes something seen in a better light.
We should be uncompromisingly, fearlessly honest. (Adverb usage in this article is a bit too high, see what I’m doing? I’m letting you know my mistakes).
Done that? Good. Now do it again. And again. It’s the least each of us can do for our readers.
An article with a subject different to any of my previously covered articles. An article with emphasis on technical writing and not on Writers’ Treasure‘s predominant focus: creative writing. An article which addresses a need, brilliantly written, and motivational for writers.
Check. Check. Check.
(OK, it’s your subjective preference regarding the third one. That’s true isn’t it?).
In reality, though, somebody should have written this article. Someone needed to explain this. I looked, but didn’t see anything of sufficient depth. Then it was up to me, and I’ve done my bit for now, and now you have to do your bit too.
What bit precisely though? Well, following the recommendations in this article would be a start, fighting against the tide of lies, and after that maybe I’ll start a whole series based on this, then all of us can carry on.
Have your say
I know I’m right regarding the subject. But does this mean there can be no discussion? Of course not. So go on, write a comment, start a debate, throw some examples around, convince me I didn’t write a brilliant article, whatever. I’m all ears. The world’s waiting: raise some awareness, spread the truth around.