Funny things about writing advice

While procrastinating today, I decided to read up on some editing tips, since that is what I am doing (other than writing). I found this one on deviantART. It seemed pretty bog-standard at first, but then I got to the last third of it.

None of it is all that well-written. A lot is just regurgitating completely obvious things, such as spelling correctly. As if anyone really thinks that incorrect spelling is something you do not have to edit out. …barring specific circumstances, such as a block quote containing a note that a character has written or found. The writer also doesn’t seem to have a full grasp of all the rules he/she spouts, offering a shaky mnemonic to explain whether to use who or whom, rather than explaining the difference between a subject and an object.

But that’s just people. Few of us really know what we’re talking about, which I believe is one of the chief reasons why any search for writing advice, resources, or tips, will yield all of the same regurgitated schlock and “character templates”. Oh yeah, and the endless proclamations that one should “just write”.

That last one is true, but as I have probably said before. It’s not remotely helpful. Someone searching for advice and help does not need to hear “just do it”. Nor do they need smug diatribes from someone who doesn’t actually know what he is talking about. (trying not to use “they” anymore, sue me)

But where I really had to start laughing was the section titled “GET TO IT, MATE”. Contradictions, under the right circumstances and to the right person, are hilarious. After naming the section thus, this person quickly follows by using almost forty words to declare that “most people are dumb”.  This is all working alongside a claim that most writers try too hard, and that these dumb readers don’t want to “swath through” a load of allegedly unimportant text.

That was the really funny part. The use of the word “swath”. It’s a multi-layered joke, and I will explain it. Because, like many times when someone does not know what he or she is talking about, it’s kind of hard to quickly say why their mistaken results are so funny.

This writer has posited that writers try too hard, which is a problem and clearly takes the stance that it is other people, not this writer, who make that mistake. Not only has this person undermined his own point regarding lengthy passages by writing in a verbose manner, but he also tries too hard himself by using an uncommon word incorrectly.

Swath is a noun, not a verb. Even if it was a verb, it would be a very odd one to use. I suppose the idiom meant to be invoked was “to cut a swath”, but unsurprisingly, this is still wrong. Cutting a swath through something means to attract a lot of attention or to cause a lot of destruction, neither of which evokes the idea that these dumb readers are reluctantly slogging through walls of text.

When such a mistake is present in an article that has smugly alluded to the writer’s non-beginner status, this just makes me grin.

Anyway, I’m just as smug, but at least I know what I’m talking about sometimes. Take all writing advice with a grain of salt and without wasting too much time reading.

One parting thought: You do not have to write what you know. Write what you want.

…and not in a wish-fulfilment way, that isn’t what I mean oh man. I have failed to be cool.

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