The writing on the wall: Mediocrity is the New Black…

OK, let’s get the objections out of the way here and now. I’m a professional writer and the wrong side of 50.

The writing on the wall: Mediocrity is the New Black...But are those the only reasons why I get so irritated by sloppy, fault-ridden business writing that not only is cosmetically bad, but also is poorly structured and heaving with inaccuracies?

A while back the PR consultant working for one of my publishers sent me what I thought was a very early draft of a press release they were going to do about my latest book.

Knowing that she was the (young) daughter of the publishing company’s owners, I emailed back politely saying I thought it needed a little more work and made some gentle suggestions of how to correct the goofs.

…and I’m just a picky author, after all

I made it clear that despite the book being about weddings, my comments were made on the basis of my “day job,” i.e. 25 years as a pro business writer / editor / copywriter / etc.

The writing on the wall: Mediocrity is the New Black...A week later I had heard nothing so contacted the girl’s mother, the boss, only to find that the original release had gone out and my comments were dismissed with “she has a huge number of books to deal with at the moment so she is just getting her head down and getting on with the job.”

Oh, so it’s OK to write garbage when your business is busy

I get it. With a huge number of books to promote we can’t expect her a) to have read each one or at least grasped what it was trying to achieve and b) to have time to check whether her press releases are accurate, properly targeted and without spelling/punctuation mistakes. In a rush, anything will do!

And anyway, some of her releases might even work and get a few books reviewed in the media. Now, wouldn’t that be great?

Sorry, folks. I may have been doing the writing job for a lot longer than this girl, but I’ve always found that it doesn’t take any longer to write a good piece of copy as it does to write a bad one. The trick is not extra time – it’s knowing how to approach the job in the first place.

Maybe I’m being a boring old business writing trout here

Maybe such things as:

* assessing and isolating a book’s (or other product/service) USP

* picking quotes that help to tell the story

* using accurate facts and interesting figures

* putting the apostrophes in the right places

* and spelling the author’s (client’s) name correctly

…don’t really matter any more.

Here’s to Mediocrity as the new black: we’ve seen it in writing

Maybe it’s terribly passé to say things like “mistakes in promotional literature make the client company look amateurish” and “it’s really worth the effort to check your work and listen to any constructive feedback.”

Maybe it’s time I throw out my stuffy old notions, embrace the new who-gives-a-damn fashion, and declare Mediocrity to be the new black.

Yours grumbling from Milton Keynes

Do you think Mediocrity should be the new black in the business writing fashion world?

Please share your views…




  1. Hello Susan,

    You know what? It’s a symptom of an entire culture, actually. I see it with pretty much everything. “At least, I tried, right?” Because it’s better to be mediocre than nothing at all.

    I’m sorry, I have an issue with that. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to pay attention. Spend 10 extra minutes re-reading your work or ask several people to have a look at it before you send it.

    Oh, and if someone takes the time to give you constructive feedback like you did, be respectful enough to acknowledge it.

    As always, great food for though, Susan!

    • Thanks Cendrine. I think we have to be tolerant of people whose mediocrity genuinely is the best they can do. But actually that’s rare. Most people like those in the article can do better; are capable of doing better. So what really annoys me is the deliberate shrugging of the shoulders, saying “meh, that’s good enough.” Is there an English equivalent of “s’en foutisme?”