An Open Note to an Anonymous Client

I freely claim to be bad at a lot of things. Dancing, gardening, communicating with people who have a thick foreign accent, fixing just about anything around the house … the list goes on.

On the other hand, I don’t claim to be good at much. Writing is one of the few categories where I’d come out all right if you lined up everyone from worst to best. Arguably, it’s my only marketable skill. I’ll take what I can get.

So when someone on the client side questions something I write, it’s only natural for me to defend my turf. If the person obviously knows a thing or two about writing, I’ll make my case but ultimately defer if necessary. Perfectly happy to do that.

The problem arises when the criticism comes from the wrong type of person. That is, someone who has no business critiquing my writing (or that of my four-year-old son) yet apparently thinks he’s the bastard child of Robert Bly and David Oglivy

Sample observation: “You’ll have to rework this paragraph. You can’t start a sentence with ‘and,’ ‘but’ or ‘or.'”

Sorry. Hold on a minute. Even writing that last line got me so worked up that I needed to stop and count to 10. Notice I didn’t write “ten.” That’s because I know you spell out numbers under ten and use numerals for 10 and up. I know this because I am a professional copywriter.

And as a professional copywriter, I’m certain you can start a sentence with a preposition. In fact, you can do all kinds of crazy things in your writing if a) you know what you’re doing, and b) your approach is appropriate for the particular situation.

So, dear anonymous client, please understand that I think you’re great. I really do appreciate your business. I even appreciate thoughtful feedback, despite how this rant may sound. All I’m saying is this: I’m sure there are many things I could learn from you (see my opening paragraph for ideas). But if you start dissing my syntax, thems are fightin’ words.

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