Writer Etiquette: Professional vs. Unprofessional

Once in a job interview I was asked, “What do you think is the most important part of customer service?” My answer: Manners. You’d be amazed how far ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ get you.

Often we talk about writing tones, ideas, styles, and rules, but what about etiquette? A dear friend and co-worker asked me if I had ever posted about my code of conduct, which are the rules I follow when writing for someone, and sometimes, myself.

The idea intrigued me, so here’s my breakdown on the differences between professional and unprofessional writers when given an assignment. These are things I keep in mind every time I’m dealing with anyone in a professional client/employee relationship.

Professional writers:

  • Meet the deadline. Ok, things happen, and everyone knows that, so it’s probably ok to be late every now and then – when things actually happen. A good writer will do their best work and meet the deadline, unless there is a real excuse (death, emergency, crashed computer, etc.).
  • Thank the client for the assignment. When you accept the work, you should thank them for hiring you. It shows you care about receiving work and you don’t just expect it.
  • Go above and beyond (not in word count though). Writers who solve their own problems and deliver a good piece are gold. I exhaust every form of research before I ask for help, and I let them know what I’ve tried, so it saves them time, too. This also applies when receiving feedback and edit requests. We all have to tweak things, and these writers do so quickly and change whatever needed to make the assignment better.
  • Do not procrastinate or over commit. Good writers will decline an assignment before they will accept it and turn it in late. Also, if you start early, you can solve problems quickly.
  • Let someone know there’s a problem. Once the calls are made and the research is done, you may have questions or need someone’s help reaching someone. These writers speak up to make sure they turn in the most accurate work.

Unprofessional writers:

  • Cop an attitude. Keep in mind there are millions of writers out there, and the number keeps growing. You can and probably will be replaced if you are rude in emails or on the phone.
  • Lie/make excuses. Some writers lie and make 100 excuses on why they are late. Editors know if you “have something come up” every assignment – you’re either not on your game or don’t care.
  • Back out at the last minute. This is my biggest pet peeve. I could never accept an assignment and just not do it. It’s inconsiderate, rude, and highly unprofessional.
  • Don’t have initiative or problem-solving skills. You should never ask your client a question that can be answered by a quick search. I believe people can ask stupid questions, and they should expect smart ‘a’ answers in return.
  • Think they’re irreplaceable. Writers who think they are “just awesome” and cannot be replaced entertain me. I’m a writer in my free time, and I know we’re a dime a dozen. A little ego can get you a job; anymore than that can keep you from getting one.

It’s in your best interest to behave admirably and make people want to hire you. We’re all trying to get our stuff out there, therefore acting like a professional may set you apart from others when tone and style just aren’t enough.

Feel free to share your tips and thoughts below!

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