how to prevent giant mistakes in writing...and life

My life flashed before my eyes today. That’s right. My cell phone fell onto the subway tracks.

My heart dropped. My palms raced. I started to sweat.


Why did this happen? Because I made the completely preventable mistake of yanking my giant gloves out of my pocket, which yanked my cell phone out of my pocket…and into that liiiiiiitle gap between the subway car and the platform. Luckily, a helpful passenger directed me to ask the train workers about it. They miraculously fished it out, and my mischievous celly is once again in my possession.

What’s the point, you say? The point of that story is this: Only you can prevent forest fires.

Okay, that’s not it, but it’s the same general theme.

How do you keep your cell phone out of harm’s way? Handle it with care. Keep it protected. Don’t rush or you’ll get in trouble.

Similarly, when you’re writing an essay—any kind of an essay—make sure you take care of the basics first. Handle assignments with care. Don’t rush.

I honestly can’t tell you how many essays I’ve read that never answer the question that the teacher/professor/college asked students to answer in the first place. And when I taught the First-Year Writing Seminar at Boston College, I was forced to give a D to a student who was a completely brilliant writer…because he never wrote about the assigned topic. So before you start adding big words or flowery language, make sure you did exactly what the question asked you to do.

Think of it this way, football fans: It doesn’t matter how beautifully you throw a pass if the ball is uncatchable.

Think of it this way, food fans: It doesn’t matter how beautifully you decorate a cake if it tastes bad.

Think of it this way, music fans: It doesn’t matter how beautiful you sing if you’re in the wrong key.

Bottom line: Take a little extra time to make sure you keep your eye on your writing assignments--and your cell phone.

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