Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Right now I write for a few different content mills – enterprises whose main purpose is to produce content for the web. One was pretty good for a while, but it recently slashed compensation rates by more than 50%, and so what used to be a nice comfortable gig is now essentially a minimum wage job. It’s disappointing – they must have made the conscious decision to get worse, both in the relationship they had with their freelance writers and editors, and also with respect to the quality of the content they delivered to clients. Plus they hired so many writers, it’s hard to find any work at all!

One of the mills often has small tasks on an on-demand basis – if you’ve got a few minutes free, literally, you can knock off a few quick tasks. The pay isn’t great, but I’d rather earn a few bucks and practice my writing than sit for half an hour waiting for a job to come my way.

There’s quite a good post on a blog I visited recently.  It’s one of the first times I’ve seen honest appraisal of content mills, in many cases from the perspective of writers who have made their living at their craft, and can recognize the content mills for what they are. See, that’s where I was behind the 8-ball. Before getting these online gigs, I was really unaware that there were such things as content mills, or that I had any shot at writing more substantive pieces for websites and magazines, for significantly more substantial pay. Here’s a link to the post. Reading it, and the many replies, opened my eyes to two main facts:

1. Compared to other content mills, I didn’t know how good I had it, both at the beginning, when I was earning 7 cents per word, and later, when the pay was a flat rate of $20 per 300-word biography.

2. Compared to other gigs – magazines, websites, white papers for corporations, and other technical and professional-level writing – I had no idea how short I was selling myself, both at the beginning, when I was earning only 7 cents per word, and later, when I was paid just $20 per 300-word biography.

Now, there’s little real difference from other content mills, except for the fact that I’ve already passed the tests and gotten my foot in the door. I looked into signing up for some others, but the list of things I had to do to get on the list of approved writers – before being permitted to bid on any jobs – was ridiculous. Plus I’m not giving anyone any “writing samples” on a topic of their choosing. If you want to see how I write, visit the Georgia Yankee blog or visit WiseGEEK, where there are over 200 articles under my byline. (You can see a clickable list of those articles here!)

I wrote and published this almost two years ago, but my thinking hasn’t changed since. I thought it would be nice to include it in the new effort. As they say, without further ado . . .

June 18, 2010: I went to play tennis with my gorgeous wife this morning.  The idea was hers; on Saturday morning, my first impulse is to stay in bed; upon getting up, my first impulse is to return to bed.

We’re northwest of Atlanta, and we’re experiencing a heat wave this week.  Thus, we decided that if we’re going to do something like play tennis, we should do so before it got too hot.  Joan’s idea was to get up early and be on the court by nine.

We play at public courts in Cherokee County because the subdivision we live in was built before they invented tennis.  When we got to the courts, I was surprised to see that all four courts were empty, despite it being 10:00 or so.

After playing for a while, I took a break to use the restroom, a little shed about ten yards from the courts, an ideal location.  Both the men’s and ladies’ rooms had nice, freshly-printed signs on them.  Both, alas, were locked.  I wondered about that as I wandered off to use the restrooms by the baseball fields.  After going to all that trouble to print the signs to identify the two restrooms properly, why had they been locked?  Was someone concerned that they’d be misread?

It’s a nice sports complex at Hobgood Park, by the way, and the park gets a good amount of use, especially on weekends.  Today, all the baseball fields were in use by the various little league teams, and the walkways were filled with kids and their parents.  A nice scene.

Then I saw it.  On one of the gates to the complex, designed to be seen easily from the parking lot when the gates are licked, a painted metal sign: “Field’s Closed” It would have been okay if there’d been only one field, but there are three of four field’s – ahem, fields – protected by that gate. I looked around and saw a couple of other examples of misused apostrophes used in plural words.

Now, I know that many people are rolling their eyes.  What’s the big deal?  I’ll tell you the big deal – these are kids, children.  They’re in school.  They’re being brought up like good Americans, to have respect for authority.  They see the signs placed around the park, and they assume they’re properly spelled and punctuated.  And so they pick up a bad habit and perpetuate it.

My real question is this – why are these things allowed to happen?  Don’t the people in charge of signage in our public places know how to spell?  How long would a misspelled word last on a sign erected by the public library?
For years, every time I got a communication from my daughter’s school, I’d read it carefully.  When we lived in New Jersey, I’d say that about half of them contained some sort of spelling or punctuation error, or worse.  Here in Georgia, that percentage declined significantly, but every now and then there’d be something from the school that was, well, challenged.

I never contacted any school about this, though perhaps I should have.  I know that my estimation of their capabilities was affected by my realization that they cared so little for parents’ sensibilities that they would send out communications that contained errors of the sort they claimed to be teaching our children to avoid.

The same thing happens in everyday life.  I’d never walk into a restaurant with a misspelled sign in the window, and I’ve gotten up and walked out of restaurants with misspelled menu items (“bacon and egg’s”).  If you have so little respect for your customers that you can’t be bothered to spell menu items correctly, in what other ways will that lack of respect manifest itself?

So that’s today’s rant – if you’re going to go to the trouble of making a sign or printing a menu or sending a letter home to your students’ parents, take the time to express yourself clearly and make sure you spell and punctuate your words correctly.  It’s one of those things that few people will notice when you do it right, but many will notice when you do it wrong.