Lots of people join Facebook writing groups to improve and share their writing. Others join to help newbie writers. I’m a member of three groups, all of which have large numbers of members. I might be preaching to the converted here, but there are some things that bug me. I see plenty of people helping others, but I also see some pretty bad behaviour, most of which stems from ignorance and assumption. What follows is based on some of the things I’ve seen, seriously.
So how do you avoid being a d*ck?
1. Do not assume everyone lives in the land of plenty (wherever that may be).
Not everyone can afford swanky computers, tablets, programs, or unlimited data coverage. Some people do everything on their phones. Some people live in countries that offer Facebook only data plans and that’s how they access the writing groups. When someone asks a question like: Does anyone know what rifle the US used in WWII? Or Is x book in the public domain yet? Don’t reply – Google it – or – Do your own research! – The person may not have access to a search engine; they may not even be able to see images on Facebook. If you don’t want to offer an answer, just scroll on by.
2. Do not assume everyone speaks and/or writes English.
Sometimes someone asks a question in poor English and I see people jumping down their throat about it with comments like: Based on your post, you’d better get an editor or How can you write a book when you can’t even ask a question properly? Aside from being just plain rude, it’s also ignorant. Perhaps the person is writing their book in their native language and is only asking in English because that is the lingua franca of the writing group. Maybe they intend to have their book translated after they have written it. You just don’t know. If you can understand the gist of the question, answer it if you can help and ignore how it was asked.
3. Don’t assume everyone is an adult.
You can join Facebook from the age of 13, and many people start writing in their teens. I know I did, and I had plenty of questions about writing. There wasn’t any Facebook back in 1988 though. If a question seems like it may have come from a younger person, or the person gives their age in the question, the worst thing you can do is belittle them after they have plucked up the courage to ask a group for help. Don’t do it, just answer if you can.
4. Do not assume everyone is writing in American English.
Some people (in fact most of the world) use or are taught British English. Be aware there are different forms of spelling and styles of punctuation, and think before you answer, otherwise you will just end up looking silly. For instance, suggesting someone writing in British English uses Strunk and White as a style guide is useless because that is based on American English, they’ll need to use New Hart’s Rules instead.
5. Do not assume everyone is an experienced writer or has a certain level of education.
If someone asks what you consider to be a simple question, perhaps about grammar or punctuation, do not say: Wow, I learned that when I was ten!, or some such thing. You do not know the person’s history.
All you have to do to avoid being a d*ck on Facebook writing groups is:
- Keep an open mind.
- Be aware everyone is different and so are their circumstances.
- Do not judge.
- Be helpful, even if you think the question is weird or stupid.
We are all in this together, and all writers benefit from community.
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