Nothing common about commonsense

Nothing irritates me more than commonsense bloopers, especially in a public forum like the internet where every second person is a genius of knowledge about the “real” world. I just read an article on resume writing that claimed to have the “tips and tricks” to get you that job. I found it hard to take the writer seriously with the page splattered with expletives, while dictating the inadequacy of overzealousness in resume writing. There was so much wrong with the article, but this next example was the one that made my mouth drop, simply for its ignorance. The writer was talking about university degrees, and gave the example of one received from 2001-2003, to which the writer remarked it is impossible to receive a Bachelor degree in two years. There’s nothing wrong with this statement, except that the writer has failed in his/her calculations: this article was written for an Australian website and in Australia the school year starts in January and ends in October/November. The student would start his/her degree in January, 2001, continuing through to October of that year. The student would undertake his/her second year of the degree from January-October 2002. The third and final year would be undertaken from January-October, 2003, resulting in the graduation with a bachelor degree in December 2003, making it a three year degree. This to me was not just a minor oversight, but a blatant disrespect for academic achievements, not to mention ignorance of academic procedures. This writer also referred to “a friend” as a “moron” for making mistakes on her resume. I would not want this person reviewing my resume as a candidate for a job.

Commonsense for a writer is paramount if you want to be taken seriously. I have a code by which I live and it involves commonsense and logic and it can be easily applied to any kind of writing. It goes something like this:

  1. Never make the mistake of thinking you are the swami of a topic. The best we can hope for is to present old information in a unique and (more) interesting way.
  2. If you are going to be an expert on a topic, if you expect your audience to respect your words, don’t be clever, be thorough.
  3. Be consistent with your own objectives – don’t allow your behaviour to contradict your point. I have emphasised this point because it is a mistake I see too often.
  4. Never make the mistake of thinking you are beyond reproach. Readers are intelligent. They notice when you’re not paying attention to your own work. They’ll simply stop reading.
  5. Read everything you write and look for errors of commonsense.
  6. Be rational and if you can’t be rational, be honest and be fair.

About Sharon

Writer, bibliophile, dreamer and student of everything
This entry was posted in ME ON WRITING, Writing rules and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Nothing common about commonsense

  1. vanyieck says:

    If I may add to your list the importance of courtesy. Calling anyone a moron is beneath contempt. It seems to be impossible to disagree with someone’s argument or idea without denigrating that person’s character. I find that unfortunate.

    • Sharon says:

      Well said, Vanyieck. It does show a lack of civility to name-call, not to mention professionalism. I find it impossible to take anyone seriously who resorts that sort of argument tactic.

  2. drtombibey says:

    Hey Sharon,

    Old Doc B is gonna be on the radio, WNCW 88.7 tommorrow 6/26/2010 at 12:00 noon. Check out my blog post today.

    There’s gonna be a prize (a signed copy of “The Mandolin Case”) for whoever calls in from the longest distance; I’d love for it to be someone from Australia.

    Dr. B

  3. drtombibey says:

    When I write I always want an editor who’s not afraid to tell me when a passage doesn’t work. Alone in this world is too hard, and I want all the help I can get.

    Dr. B

    • Sharon says:

      Dr B. I agree. It’s important to have an objective reader for your work. Sometimes we are too locked into our own writing space to see when something isn’t working.

  4. Heather says:

    I hear you Sharon-lots of this type of writing about-nice to read yours- must do some myself-I hope all is well!

  5. Lua says:

    Aghr!! People who think they are the experts on everything without even having the courtesy of doing a little research before they pick up the pen make me really angry!! Not only do they look quiet stupid, they also take you as ignorant and stupid and that is the one thing that can make me throw the book/magazine out the window.
    Those are some great advice to live by and if one wants to be a writer, commonsense is a must!

    • Sharon says:

      Lua, it’s one of the worse crimes a writer can commit: to assume his/her audience is made up of passive readers who have no primary knowledge of their own.

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