Why I Don't Answer Ads for "Rewriters"

I know there’s a ton of controversy going on in the freelance writing community regarding what kinds of jobs and pay freelance writers should accept. To be honest, the main reason I know about it is because Deb’s been talking about it over on the main Freelance Writing Jobs blog. (See “Freelance Writing: The Great Divide.”) Personally, I don’t get too caught up in all the drama. I’m thankful to say that I’m actually too busy with my freelance writing gigs to worry too terribly much about what everyone else is up to.

That said, there are certain freelance writing gigs that really, really annoy me. If an ad asks for someone to “rewrite” articles, for example, I tend to sneer and skip it entirely. I don’t mind the idea of certain topics being rehashed in different forums, but when the client is more interested in the percentage of words in the new article that are different from those in the old article…well, I’m going to go ahead and be judgmental and condescending.

Today, as I was researching for a client, I came face to face with exactly why this type of thing annoys me so badly. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you three different articles, all supposedly written by the same person. I won’t publish all of the text here, but you’re sure to get the point.

Example One:
“First, research and identify who your target clientele is, and what characteristics they share that make them valuable to you. If you have developed software that organizes and manages an online calendar, you probably will not want to target 14-year-old skateboarders. But it is not enough just to identify an age category or an activity your target market shares – you need to consider socio-economic status, buying habits, and potential for up-selling. I may be in Porsche’s target age group, but I am definitely not in their target tax bracket!”

Not too shabby. I suspect this one was actually written by the author. The next two, however, are those ridiculous “rewrites.” At best, they flood the Internet with pointless articles. At worst, they’re often unintelligible.

Example Two:
“First, research and identify who your target patronage is, and what characteristics they share that do them valuable to you. If you have developed software system that organizes and manages an online calendar, you probably wish not want to target 14-year-old skateboarders. But it is not enough simply to identify an age category or an work your target market shares – you need to consider socio-economic status, buying habits, and potential for up-selling. I may be in Porsche’s target age group, but I am decidedly not in their target tax bracket!”

Example Three:
“First, research and identify who your target people is, and what characteristics they share that do them valuable to you. If you have developed computer code that organizes and manages an online calendar, you probably wish not want to target 14-year-old skateboarders. But it is not enough simply to identify an age category or an work your target market shares – you need to consider socio-economic status, buying habits, and potential for up-selling. I may be in Porsche’s target age group, but I am emphatically not in their target tax bracket!”

And, just in case the various, slightly different versions of the article aren’t annoying enough, there seem to be no less than a dozen instances of the same (or barely changed) article slapped up on all manner of sites. I find it kind of gross, to tell you the truth.

(And, yes, I realize that I’ve now sort of added to the spamming with this particular article, but I just couldn’t let it go.)

Comments

  1. Thank you for writing this! Re-writing jobs have been a pet-peeve, and it really, really gets on my nerves when I see them posted!

  2. I have to hold my hand up and say that I did answer an ad on Craiglist for a rewriter. What can I say – work on thin on the ground and I wanted to see if I could meet the requirements. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I got a lot of flattery for my three rewritten pieces but no pay! I let Craiglist know but I’m not holding my breath for the check!

  3. Lorna Doone Brewer says:

    @Kriszia – Me preacher, you choir. Or, it can be the other way around if you want to take the pulpit for a while.

    @Derek – You mean the people who totally don’t care about the quality of the writing or the integrity of what they’re putting out there also don’t care about living up to their end of an agreement and paying their rewriters? I am so not surprised. I know that some of us would put out much higher quality than this, but I just have to say “no” on general principle.

  4. I don’t think the above example is rewriting, I believe it is plagiarism — changing a word or two. If examples two and three were supposed to be improvements, well…don’t make a train wreck out of a broken fender.

    Sometimes people also are confused about the difference between rewriting, research and plagiarism.

    1. Research — Reading multiple articles and conducting some of your own interviews to add to it, and then writing an article in your own words, for example, is not plagiarism. It is “research,” as long as the sources are cited in some fashion. BTW, magazines and newspapers routinely “research” competitors and used the information the competitor gained to fashion their own article. Then, the writer is encouraged to add a new twist to it — something that wasn’t included in the original article. There’s more skill involved than what you see above, yet it’s hardly original.

    2. Rewriting — is supposed to mean just that. The original writer or a copy editor rewrites an existing article that did not read well or contained errors.

    3. Plagiarism — copying of actual text or the ideas of another and passing them off as original. This includes changing a couple of words in a sentence as they did above.

    This is not just people writing for the so-called content mills who do this.
    I know of a high profile agency that paid its writers $35 an hour. They routinely asked people to go out and “see what some of the similar high-ranking Web sites have used and incorporate that in the copy.” No, did not say to COPY it, just borrow *lol* their ideas, keywords and note what information they included.

    It happens all over the place. Not saying it’s right, but really, this should not shock anyone. There is actually very little original or meaningful information out there, whether printed or on TV. Look at the tripe on the TV news every night. Most of it is not even news or useful information — 10 ft. chocolate Easter bunnies, the fact that the meal sizes in paintings of the Last Supper have increased, ect. ect.

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