Saturday special – know what you’re good at and don’t budge

Wedge rants about bois playing music on buses and trains, and about the importance of proof reading web copy, even without a ‘proof’.

It’s Saturday, so anything goes. I’m probably in North Yorkshire by now, perhaps lazing in a spa bath, and picking the skins of kumquats. I don’t know as I wrote this yesterday while on the train home.

I came this close to asking the gang member behind me to switch his boom-boom music off – not just because it was annoyingly loud for other travellers, not just because it was pretty atrocious dub music and lyrically challenged (and violently themed) but because he was playing it from his phone, on loud; his speakers were crap, it sounded shit.

But he and his two cap-wearing hoodie friends would have spat and stabbed me, and you’d be viewing my humiliation on a phone-cam video on YouTube by now.

There is no such thing as ‘public behaviour’ any more, so I’ll shut up, don’t get me started. My Granma wouldn’t want me to eat in the street, never mind inconvenience strangers with any selfish behaviour.

So, before I even stood up to this selfish young man, I backed down. I felt my ire rise, and I hosed it down and kept my mouth shut. Reminds me of how I sometimes act at work when a piece of poor writing is handed to me and I’m told to publish it.

Do I really want my CEO to be seen to be ignorant of the correct names for the major projects we’re running? Do I really want him to use ‘effect’ when I know he means ‘affect’? But you see, I’m not in on the review process for this piece of comms – it’s already been reviewed by communication specialists.

I don’t mean to be down on my Internal Communications colleagues, but c’mon, proof read the damn thing; it’s from the big boss man and it’s going to every member of the company.

People often hand me ‘copy’ or ‘content’ that they’ve written, and they helpfully inform me that their boss has approved it. Oh good, your over-worked out-of-her-depth middle manager has glanced at your A4 sheet while you held it under her nose for 45 seconds. Great review process.

Your boss can’t write. Prove me wrong; send me five paragraphs and I’ll show you where they went off track.

So I push back, ever so gently; but in order for people to feel safe with my editorial review process I find I have to explain every little change, including taking the capitals off ‘Mobile Phone’ and changing ‘it has been decided that the process will provide’ to ‘we’re going to give’ – obvious matters have to be explained to the nth degree. Basically I’d like content authors to realize that I’m helping them not sound like a total ass.

When we get to the fifth or sixth draft and the author has reverted my revisions for the second time, I’m ready to back down. I back down in two ways, I just publish their drivel and make sure it gets buried 24 hours later, or I just don’t publish it, and wait for them to complain a few days later.

But in general, having met a lot of people who don’t know when to use a comma or a period, I’m certain I’m a better writer, and I’m certain it’s my role to help people communicate better.

I shouldn’t back down.

I need to develop an equanimous nature, and recognise how distressing ‘criticism’ might be for people. I need to focus on the positives, and I need to ‘manage their expectations’ – they need to know that I don’t just publish first drafts.

I shouldn’t back down, and this week, I haven’t.

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