Inflection Deflection

Welcome to Writer Rants–where every Friday a writer just lets loose on whatever the heck is bugging them this week. Enjoy.

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As a freelance writer, I have private clients with whom I have frequent in-person interaction. After years of face-to-face contact, we know and understand each other’s intentions instinctively.

At the same time, I have clients through Internet platforms. They are anonymous, faceless, formless, ageless, without gender, and without nationality. The platform assigns them a code, which many times resembles a computer generated strong password like IuX28Za!2. That number represents the totality of my knowledge of IuX28Za!2’s wants, needs, and expectations. Frequently, I write only one article for the invisible client, and I never see IuX28Za!2 pop up on the open job board again.

In communicating with these invisible people, I have learned to strive for monotone in my emails, because I do not know how that person will place inflection upon my written words. Occasionally, I study the client’s word choices, syntax, and style, and try to mimic the grammar in an effort to speak the same language. Since I am here to please IuX28Za!2, to create outstanding copy, and produce clear, concise communication for his use, I endeavor to use the same clarity of word choice in my emails.

Thus, the rare occasion stands out, slices through my psyche like lightening, and shatters my soul when a client misunderstands my intentions.

“Thank you for the opportunity to revise this article for you. I would be very happy to do a rewrite. Would you please amplify your instructions to relate the company’s product line-up of 10/40/100 gigabit low-latency, cut-through switches to puppy mills in East Podunk? Thank you!”

The client’s answer comes through as a conflagration of searing sarcasm. “YOU’RE THE WRITER! DON’T YOU KNOW HOW TO DO THAT?”

Now that the client has electronically shouted at me, belittled, and demoralized me, I fall into a paralyzing state of concurrent and enveloping emotions: despair, anxiety, discouragement, anger, concern, and fear that poor communication with a client will result in the cancellation of my writer account.

My goal is always to make nameless, faceless IuX28Za!2 exceedingly happy. They win. I win. The writing platform wins. Win, win, win!

I fixate and ruminate sullenly on my request for amplification. What could IuX28Za!2 have read into it? What word did IuX28Za!2 emphasize as the critical element in the sentence?

“Would you PLEASE clarify” (IuX28Za!2 reads: puhleeze! Sheesh!)

“Thank you for the OPPORTUNITY” (IuX28Za!2 reads: inarticulate, idiotic demand!)

You get my drift.

Over the years, I have learned to create shorter and shorter sentences when communicating via email. It is self- preservation and it creates less opportunity for misinterpretation of my intended inflection.

I wonder why the client assumes that I meant rudeness or sarcasm. I review my profile and picture. I think I have a pleasant smile. I think I project professionalism. Perhaps the client looks at my profile and sees a compulsive flame-thrower who seeks only to destroy her customer base through the scorched earth method of unprofessional emails.

Since I have not experienced this anonymous process from the client side, I may never have the answer. In the meantime, for my own inner peace, I have begun to master inflection deflection.

While reflection on inflection deflection consumes some of Wendy H‘s mental processes, she much prefers to chase her four year old through Legoland, ride her Palomino through the high mesas north of Baja’s wine region, climb mountains and travel the world.


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