It’s all about the writing

I was asked by a University of Vermont professor what qualities we value most in new employees. “That’sMichaels600_2
easy,” I said. “Good writing.” My fellow panelists at the UVM career day seminar this past Friday, shook their heads in agreement.

For whatever reason(s), good writing is as rare in PR as a NY Jets Super Bowl ring is in the NFL. And, for
whatever reason(s), writing (like the Jets) is getting worse with each passing year.

Which is why I read Gretchen Morgenson’s homage to the late Forbes Editor James Michaels, with such interest.

Michaels, according to Morgenson, was a real bear when it came to writing. He not only routinely rejected poor writing and editing by his reporters, he did so with a flourish. To wit:

– “This is a paid advertisement. Did you forget to say he walks on water?”
– “This is so full of holes, it’s like Swiss cheese.”

And, my favorite….

– “If I can’t stay awake editing this, how can a reader stay awake reading it?”

I never met Jim Michaels, but it seems he made quite an impression on the men and women who did. It also seems that Michaels and his breed of editor/writer who demanded clear, concise and compelling writing are an endangered species. Sad to say, the copy I see being written by most young people today would probably make the late Mr. Michaels turn over in his grave.

2 thoughts on “It’s all about the writing

  1. Steve,
    I so agree with you about how good writing has take a back seat. There were times, before computers, when editing was quite a task. But today, it’s a mouse click away.
    When I do a draft for any of my clients, I know it will go through hours of editing. There are people to whom the words flow easily. I am not one of them. I must labor at it. And I am never satisfied.
    I often take comfort in the fact that I heard the great are never satisfied.
    Right!!!!

  2. Steve,
    I so agree with you about how good writing has take a back seat. There were times, before computers, when editing was quite a task. But today, it’s a mouse click away.
    When I do a draft for any of my clients, I know it will go through hours of editing. There are people to whom the words flow easily. I am not one of them. I must labor at it. And I am never satisfied.
    I often take comfort in the fact that I heard the great are never satisfied.
    Right!!!!