The Importance of Good Writing

The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it. – Leo Rosten

This was first posted on Facebook in reaction to the Bayo ad campaign that scandalized the internet. I thought I’d share it here as well.

If there’s anything that the Bayo brouhaha has taught us, it’s that GOOD WRITING IS IMPORTANT.

Working in media, it is oftentimes taken for granted that most Filipinos, no matter the tax bracket, would rather look at pretty pictures than read words.

Yesterday’s complaints over an ad that many people interpreted as faintly racist proved that Filipinos do read, and that their thoughts count.

The ad’s main fault isn’t that it was offensive (it was trying to sell clothes, not perpetuate an ideology) but that it suffers from bad writing.

Many people, all of them non-writers, think that writing is an easy task. That as long as you passed language class and can string words together to form coherent thought, you can write anything, from novels to advertising copy. Writers will tell you that this is not so. Writing is hard work. It may look like a lot of sitting at a desk and staring out windows and putting the words you learned in spelling class to good use, but it’s more than that. There’s effort and tears and if you get a paper cut, blood. And yet, especially now, writing is something many of people take for granted.

And here is the self-serving part of this post, a sentiment that I am sure all professional writers have felt at some point in their lives: Writers have labored for far too long under inadequate circumstances. We are paid very little for what we do, and our craft is, more often than not, considered as filler instead of meat.

If there’s anything the Bayo fiasco has taught us, it’s that good writing is important. And if you want good writing, you have to hire good writers. Not some random relative, not some person who will do it for cheap. Find out what makes good writing, hire good writers, and PAY THEM WHAT THEY ARE WORTH.

Most writers are terribly underpaid, and their craft is often taken for granted because the common way of thinking is “if my first-grade son can write an essay, why do I need to pay an adult to do it?”

It’s about time we reexamined the way we think about writing and writers. Because as we have seen, words do have the power to break a campaign, no matter how nice the accompanying photo is. Although when you think about it, bad writing got Bayo major internet buzz, so that might be a good thing for them. I just don’t know how it translates to sales.


Yvette Natalie U. Tan is a multi-awarded author of horror fiction and the Agriculture section editor of Manila Bulletin.

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