I was flattered when I received Dee’s guest post pitch. After all, this is not one of the big shot blogs with a queue of eager writers wanting to make a name for themselves.

But my antenna should been gone up at the mention of “free” in the subject line. The alarm bells should have sounded when her submission contained the words “peak” when she meant “pique” and “reign” instead of “rein.”

stop making the same writing mistakes

What should have stopped me dead in my tracks was her request that I re-insert a link I had omitted because it had nothing to do with the post. Ironically, Dee had ranted against superfluous links.

When I spotted the “reign” mistake again in a blog an expert tweeted I simply had to read, I figured maybe I was being too tough. However, I made sure these examples were included in the list of common sound-alike confusions I provide in the new edition of Write Like You Talk–Only Better.

From running another blog, for the Toronto chapter of IABC (International Association of Business Communicators), I know that newbie bloggers can be sensitive souls. I want to help them. And I don’t like to look like Mrs. Cardwell, my grade seven English teacher, who would stamp her kitten heels in frustration when we kept making the same mistakes over and over.

When I refused to add the meaningless link, Dee complained about not getting paid for the link after she’d spent all that time on the “free” post for me. At her request, I took it down.

I don’t feel bad because I’m against sleazy link-building practices. Solid links are tough to earn.

But from all those “$20-a-post” ads I see, I know that many McWriters are toiling for these content farms, whose mission is to hoodwink the search engine giants with misbegotten links.

Writers have long kick started their careers with low-priced prose to magazines and other prestigious publications. But the writing had to be good. One “peak” or “reign” and the editor would stop reading.

The payoff was being able to show prospects that the big shots had published you. Today you also earn a prized link.

Highly regarded newspapers such as the Globe and Mail have gone from paying peanuts to saw dust. But I still send them articles occasionally because their circulation is huge and includes the kind of people I want to impress. The last time I published there, I immediately received a call from an occasional client who is now sending a stream of quality work. I also vie to provide guest posts for blogs like Problogger and Ragan.com because they always deliver new subscribers and attention to me.

So Dee, here’s my my advice if you want to go from being a McWriter to a white table cloth writer like me: Hone your craft, by avoiding sound-alike confusions and other common mistakes. You can do this, and earn more, by getting a job with an organization where the boss knows how to write well. If you dare, write quality posts and articles for big shots.

Google and other search engine keep changing their algorithms to discourage the content farms. You’re not helping your career by slaving for them. Don’t blame me.

And thank you, Dee, for reminding me that nothing in life is free. Now if I can only cast off the spirit of Mrs. Cardwell. And why do I still remember her green suede shoes?

Thanks for the photo, Floyd Brown.

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New class struggle pits McWriters against gourmet scribes
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