Workplace Frustration – Writing is Subjective

Workplace Frustration – Writing is Subjective

Today I sat in front of my computer screen shaking my fist at it saying “make the bad lady stop.” Good writing is such a subjective term that it seems near impossible to ever be successful and to make the boss happy. Especially, when “good” is a moving target. I am the type of writer that thinks if you understand my intent and the message got across, communication has happened and I am happy. Not my boss, she wants something different every week. (Bangs head on desk, make it stop.)

What I was hired to do

So you might be wondering what is my job? I was hired to teach classes and occasionally write a job aid to give step-by-step instructions on a process. None of this is really hard writing. It is the typical “click here, see screenshot”, “now click the other button, see screenshot.” Rinse and repeat until the process is documented. I can do that and have done for years.

What I am doing

Recently a new task was added to my list; I now have to write a weekly news item about new features for the software I teach. Okay, how hard could that be. I figured it would be identifying something new or address a frequently asked questions to help users get more done with less frustration. I am here to tell you I was very wrong on that point.

Yes, I have to identify an issue but apparently it is not enough to inform. I must somehow be creative and entertaining in the news item. The problem I have is that I am not a professional writer, I am not overly creative, and the target keeps moving. If I use the tone that was acceptable last week or the week before, it is not good anymore.

Writing is subjective

The question I keep asking myself is how do we define “good writing.” I think I am doing well if you learn something new from my article and can move on with your day armed with new information. Sometimes this makes the boss happy. Mostly it does not.

Sometimes the boss wants an article that has a tone of two people talking over coffee sharing a new piece of information. Sometimes, it needs to be formal, and other times I just don’t know what the tone is. The really frustrating part is I am not told what tone to use until after I have submitted my article and it has been rejected…..again.

Don’t ask in advance because an answer will not be forthcoming. Today the answer was go forth and conquer. What does that even mean?

Today’s topic was related to a very technical issue, surely the tone is going to be formal. This is my favorite kind of writing because I understand it best. But you guessed it, I was wrong. The notes came back as “while your statements are factually correct, the writing is meh. Try again and this time be more creative.”

After more than an hour trying to get the tone correct and failing, I start shaking my fist and saying “make the bad lady stop.” Seriously, how can someone feel successful in this environment. I even used her words to describe where the video on the topic was located. She tore that up too.

Really I need to be creative when describing where to find the video!

What tone of writing do people like to read?

As I sit here and vent my frustration on my tiny blog, gleefully ignoring all the rules I have to follow at work, I begin to wonder; what tone of writing do people prefer? (yep run on sentence, good for me)

  • When you need to be informed about training do you care if I am entertaining?
  • Would you rather I just get to the point so you can move on with your day?
  • Are you like so many people I know who don’t even read the announcements anyway?

I don’t expect an actual answer to any of these questions, but feel free to comment and discuss. My suspicion is that since writing is very subjective the answers would cross the spectrum. Many people will agree with my boss and think I should suck it up. Others will agree with me and say communication occurred go do your real job now. Someone is going to come up with an answer I never thought of. Thus ends my rant on workplace frustration.

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