"Who sent me this terrible email, and what did they want?" I thought to myself! Was this person some kind of jokester or was this some kind of practical joke of some kind?
The email was sent to me by a fellow named Orley (who I didn't know), and he told me that he lived in the panhandle of Florida, near the Alabame state line. Orley told me in his email, that he was concerned about his website, his spelling, grammar and puncuation and he wanted somebody to go to his website and critique it, and give him advice as to how to improve it, etc. This was a terrible-looking email.
Over the short time that I've been online, there have been many people who have helped me in a variety of ways, so I decided to go to Orley's website to see how I could help him. And, from what I saw of that email...Orley needed help! He told me he wanted to go into business for himself, but he was not going to get very far with emails that looked like the one he sent me. At this point, I still didn't know if I was dealing with a jokester but, I went to pay a visit to his website anyway.
There, I found a pretty nice looking website, with a thing or two wrong, but nothing major. A nice Front Page, with links and buttons to different places, etc. Judging from that first dreadful email he sent me, somebody must have helped him to put up his website. The website was not bad at all. I didn't see much of anything I could report back to him, with respect to errors on his website.
And besides, I'm not an editor or a grammarian. In college, I was not an English, journalism or communications major. And yes, I did complete two writing correspondence courses in my 40's, and by doing so, it helped me improve my writing skills and gave me the confidence to continue with my ambitions in writing. I think all of us just do our best when it comes to writing, after all, we're dealing with the English language...which, I don't know about you, but it is all "Greek" to me.
I really didn't know how to handle the situation with Orley, but I thought honesty would be the best policy. But, I had to be encouraging and supportive of him. Constructive criticism was the name of the game and I told him in a return email;
1) Website building is publishing, and if a person is going to be in the publishing business on the Internet, which shows your work all over the world, your work has to be your best! Like a resume or a job interview, first impression is everything. Your website, Orley, was acceptable, but you probably had help with it.
2) Your first email to me was just awful and I almost deleted it! It was riddled with spelling, grammar, and puncuation errors and was just plain unprofessional. What kind of first impression would that make? Unless you take action to improve your writing skills, nobody will return your emails, and I'm sorry to say, that you won't make it in business or anything else!
3) Orley, you have won a couple of big battles right away. You have been honest with yourself...and that's a big step forward. Many people are not honest with themselves...they're in denial about such things in their lives as alcohol; drugs; temper, etc. And, you know you have a problem and you've gone out to get some help. Not only have you gone out to get help, but you have gone to a total stranger, and that takes courage, my friend. You WANT to improve yourself, and all of these things are big pluses for you. You've taken a couple of big steps and you're off to a good start.
4) You'll have to pay your dues, Orley, just like everybody else has done. There's no free lunch! I completed three writing courses (in my 40's), to try to improve my writing skills. You're going to have to go back to the books...go back to square one if need be, and try to refresh your memory. As all of us get older, we forget what we learned in school. Writing courses are expensive, so I don't suggest you do that, unless you can afford it. But, you can go to the library; buy a book on English; or take a course at a local community college if there is one in your area. You have a spell-checker, Orley,
use it! And, if you don't have one, you'll have to download one, or do it the hard way.
I know I'm a little tough on you, Orley, but your work is out there in front of the world, and because of this, you have to be at your best.
* * *
I didn't enjoy doing this sort of thing, but it would be worse for me to ignore it. I had no idea what his response would be, or if he would respond at all, so I was a little nervous. Maybe this was just a practical joke or maybe I was just dealing with a jokester here. Later that afternoon, I received his email and response, and I didn't want to look but I had to.
As I scanned quickly over Orley's email, I was impressed at how much improvement there was! Instead of one big FAT paragraph, filled with run-on sentences and little or no puncuatation, there were about five carefully-crafted paragraphs. The email was much improved, and he must have taken a crash course in the neatness during the day. There were still spelling and grammar and punctuation problems in the email, but it had improved greatly over the first disaster he sent me! After I received his second email, I knew he was sincere, and I was happy to help him and see the improvement.
It was a relief when Orley thanked me for being honest with him. He told me that's what he needed...for someone to be honest with him! And, the best news of all, is that he told me that he would take my advice and hit the books, to try to improve his writing skills. I believed him, as he had already made progress in his second email. I was, indeed, happy to hear all of this!
* * *
After dealing with Orley, I remembered that old television commercail of the 1970's, where the mechanic looks straight into the camera and says, "You can pay me now...or you can pay me later!" And, that's true of almost everything we do. So, if it pertains to writing you can do what Orley did. You can pay NOW by being honest with yourself, and go out and get the help you need, to try to improve your writing skills and raise your confidence level. OR...you can pay LATER...when nobody returns your emails and you don't have much traffic at your website and visitor's don't return. The decision is yours! There's nothing to be embarrassed about...as we all get older, we forget the little things in writing that are so important that go onto a page.
I think everyone will agree that writing is easy, and most of us do it everyday! But, writing WELL is not so easy, and most of us struggle with it when we are writing an article; book; anecdote; screenplay, etc. Having to deal with the English can be tuff...I mean tough!
Writing is easy! Writing WELL is not so easy! If you want to do something easy...why don't you go back to school and become a ROCKET SCIENTIST?
Copyright; Jerry L. Aragon; 2006