What’s on the iPod: Into the Mystic by Van Morrison
After having more than two client interactions get heated over grammar and sentence structure, I was itching to hire some mensa-level kid-geek to plant a virus in every Word Grammar Check function in the country. I loathe that program and all it’s done to ruin good client-writer relationships.
In one case, I had to spend a good 20 minutes explaining and giving examples on why the things my client’s Grammar Check caught were not errors as he was convinced they were. I proved my point, but I eventually lost the client (other factors, but I think this contributed).
In another case, I had a client rip me up in email because I used a preposition to start a sentence. Worse, the chewing out I received was nowhere near the level of sin I’d supposedly committed. My talents were questioned, my professionalism, my ability to string together sentences….that client disappeared, but I was the one initiating that. I won’t be talked to like that no matter how right or wrong the client is (and she was dead wrong). Because someone holds a high educational degree doesn’t mean they’ve had any English beyond the cursory levels required of their bachelor’s degree. It showed. Her methods were old school. Everything I provided her was within current standards and accepted practices.
Still another couldn’t understand why I used “said” instead of changing it up and using “replied” “contended” “explained” (in a press release). Never mind that any use of “replied” in a press release with a one-sided conversation is just wrong. After 12 edits, I had to ask gently if the client was over-thinking the release (two weeks to fix it? Was the news still relevant?).
I bring this up because I saw on Valerie’s Planet Word blog a funny post about her client “approving” her copy after she passed muster with a grammar-check software application.
In that case, that client would be told in spades why I won’t be put through any “system” that cannot possibly catch every single nuance in the language. And I would refuse to do any more work if it happens again, and especially if he starts into lengthy debates on projects because of the program’s “grading” system. You either trust your writer or you write it yourself and let your stupid program be the judge. And good luck getting an application to understand your target audience and the correct tone for the message being delivered.
For some reason there are clients who cannot fully trust their contractors. Perhaps they’ve been burned by others or perhaps they just have deep-rooted trust issues that nothing will budge. Whatever the reasons, you as a freelancer need to understand that trust is something that’s built, not forced by someone telling you how to do your job – and getting it wrong.
When was the last time grammar or sentence structure became an issue between you and your client? How did you handle it?