Keeping Promises

Alert readers will remember “Yogurt Extreme” from last Friday’s post.

Here’s the problem with Yogurt Extreme. The shop’s name writes a check the product just can’t cash. Short of putting razor blades in the product, you’re just not going to get extreme results out of that shopping experience.

Which brings us to the subject of promises. As freelance writers, it’s important to keep our promises. Depending on what kind of writing we do, we’ll make and keep different kinds of promises — but they’re always there, spoken or unspoken.

In Fiction, your early action makes promises to the reader about what will happen next. If you bring up a plot thread, you need to tie it off if you want a satisfying ending — or describe circumstances under which it will be intentionally and interestingly unresolved.

In Marketing Copy, your promises center around telling the truth in as attractive a way as possible. Tepid copy breaks your promise to your client. Making unrealistic claims breaks your promise to the reader.

In Nonfiction, you make a promise to do solid research and report only facts. Veering off into opinion, or “cherry-picking” data to suit your expectations breaks that promise.

Promises to Your Client can involve working to deadlines, honestly reporting your hours and handling editorial requests professionally.

As freelancers, we’re only as good as our reputations. Keeping promises we make is key to keeping that reputation spotless.


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