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The Time I Wrote The Worst Sentence Ever And Emailed It to Thousands of People

andrew mackay

It took about ten minutes from the time the IndieVoice newsletter went out on Friday. Ten minutes for someone to politely say, "Hey, moron… did you write that sentence?"

As my country preacher father-in-law says, "If it's across the plate, it's a strike, no matter who's throwing it."

In addition to my work here at BelieversPress, I serve our local homeschool community by tutoring a class of seventh graders, one day a week. Every week, we work through math problems on a big whiteboard together.

I have a speech I give to my students each week. It goes something like this: "When we get things wrong in this classroom, we laugh at ourselves. We point out our errors. And then, we redo the problem to show that we've learned from the mistake."

I know a thing or two about learning from mistakes. I think it's important.

In that spirit:

I wrote a stinker of a sentence in the IndieVoice newsletter last week. Adding to the comedy, it was in an article titled the Value of Editing. If I was part of an organization that was into spin, I'd say it was intentional. Let's be honest… it wasn't. It was a goof. A heinous one. It was, as we say in southern West Virginia, "Real Bad."

When you do a thing for a living, you like to think that you're getting good at it. I've spent 12 years working on creating, editing, and improving content. That's a long time. But, as they say, nobody's perfect. On this one, I was far from perfect. I was downright abysmal.

Let's be clear, that sentence was like a bad American Idol audition. Everyone who read it knew it was bad.

Somehow, the bad sentence made it through two rounds of editing. That's even more shocking. Organizationally, our process is normally better than that. It was complicated by the fact that I was running late to our self-imposed deadline, so everyone working on the newsletter was in a little bit of a hurry.

Hurried work is messy work.

It's not universally true, but it's close. When you get in a hurry, mistakes are more likely to creep into your work.

I got in a hurry, and instead of being extra careful about the content for the newsletter, I sent that stinker. It's particularly sad because we have a brand that is all about bringing quality to a field where inattention to detail has ruled for so long.

So, in keeping with my classroom rules, here's that sentence, done over, to prove that I learned from my mistake:

Okay, look: we believe in editing. When we meet an indie author who feels like their books are under-performing, the first question we ask is, "Did you have your book edited?"

See that? It's a far better sentence. Coherent. Makes sense. Easy to read.

What are the lessons in this mistake?

  1. Slow down
    Great content takes time. When you get in a hurry, content that could've been great instead winds up merely adequate if you're lucky. And if you're not lucky, well, you get to write an email like this.

  2. Don't skip steps
    We talk about the value of editors over and over and over again. Seriously. If you ever meet us at a conference, or even just walking down the street, and ask us what we think the key to great content is, we'll tell you it's editing. Why on earth would we rush the process with our own content? Crazy.

  3. When things go wrong, own it
    There's no use acting like it didn't happen. When a mistake gets made, own it. Learn from it. Do better the next time.

Thanks for reading. We really do love helping you publish. As they say on the internet, #LearnFromMyFail