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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #383

Online Communication and Nuance and Accountability

Welcome back to the Mailbag. I’m glad you found the time to join us for another lively discussion about writing and life.

The big news in U.S. sports this week happened in Las Vegas, where the head coach of that NFL team resigned following the revelation of some emails he had written ten years ago, emails which were evidently racial and homophobic in nature.

I say evidently because I have not seen the emails in question. What this story points out to me, once again, is the fact that whatever we write online is etched in stone. It does not disappear, and for that reason alone we really should be at least a little bit careful. In all honesty, I would hate to be judged by some of the emails I have written to friends over the years. If people did not know the context and the particular nuance of those emails, they might conclude that I am a much-worse human being than I really am.

How many politicians have we seen self-destruct because of emails written years earlier?

No, I am not defending Gruden, the football coach in question. I’m simply saying our words are out there, to be judged by many, and care is advised. Of course, if you are a saint, no care is needed.

It’s time for the mail. Let’s see what’s on your mind this week.

The Mail Room

The Mail Room

More on Instant Gratification

From Mary: “It's interesting that you mention the ten second chunks of entertainment. I have seen at the top of some articles (not on Hubpages), a notation that indicates how long an article is. For example, it will say 'a 7 minute read'. I wonder if that will encourage readers to continue reading. What are your thoughts on that?”

Mary, I’ve seen the same thing. Isn’t that remarkable? It really is. We have become such a “fast food” type of society. Our need for instant gratification drives all marketing campaigns. We are surrounded by taglines, all designed to grab our psyches in the shortest time possible. We are literally bombarded by thousands of advertisements daily. It is not surprising, to me, that we see those notations. I think it’s a necessity if companies hope that the public will give them valuable moments of their time.

Can you imagine a notation at the top of an article claiming “60-minute read?” That article would receive no clicks at all. LOL

The Use of Regional Idioms and Colloquialisms

From Patricia: “I was thinking about this the other day. Every once in a while, I will catch myself using an idiom or colloquialism which is only used in our state or geographic region, and how that might not be a good idea when publishing online. People from other countries wouldn’t understand what I was trying to say. What do you think?”

I think you are absolutely correct, Patricia. Heck, the U.S. and England share the same language, but I can’t read a British article without coming across at least one idiom that I don’t understand.

It’s something to be aware of, for sure. I guess it depends on how genuine you want your story or article to be, and what your intentions are. If my novel takes place in rural Louisiana, it will be filled with dialogue which might seem totally foreign to someone trained in English but living in Portugal. Is it important? Well, if the reader is going to understand your dialogue yes, it is important. But maybe that’s not important to the author, in which case it’s a coin flip which way to go.

If I’m writing nonfiction, and I want my article to be read, and understood, by a broad base, it might be a good idea to not include idioms and colloquialisms which might confuse others. It most definitely is something to be aware of.

Conversations filled with idioms, and is that a good thing for a writer?

Conversations filled with idioms, and is that a good thing for a writer?

Responding to Comments on Hp

From Brad: “This may sound weird, but I don’t always know what is appropriate as far as commenting and responding to comments on HP. When is a comment too much? When is a comment too little? And how much should I write in responding to comments on my articles?”

This is an interesting question, Brad, one I’ve never had before.

I don’t know if a comment can be too long. I am grateful for comments, and longer comments really show a level of commitment from the reader. Sure, they take longer for me to read, but I’m so appreciative, I don’t mind at all. Even the short comments, like “nice article,” show some commitment, and I’m appreciative of those as well.

There is only one circumstance which bothers me with regards to commenting. If I’ve taken the time to write a long comment on someone’s article, and they respond with one word, “thanks,” that irks me for some reason, especially if they do it for every single comment on that article. To me, that seems a bit disingenuous, if you know what I mean.

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But, I’m not the comment police. I do believe if someone has taken the time to comment on one of my articles, I need to take the time to respond to their comment but again, that’s just me. There are no rules about commenting on HP other than to keep the comments decent.

While we are on this topic, let me say this: I am amazed by the number of people on HP who attack other writers in the comments, or attack the viewpoints of a writer. Disagreeing is fine; telling a writer they are a loser and an idiot and a misinformed imbecile is quite another thing and not fine at all.

Trolls have their place in society, and that place is the zoo.

More on James Patterson

From Mel: “My only point of contention with you is that it doesn't take James Patterson any time to write his rubbish, because he subcontracts it to his team of ghost writers. Wouldn't I love to be one of them.”

No, this is not a question, but it does remind me to make clear what my problem is with James Patterson.

I do not think Patterson is a particularly good writer, but that could be said for many, many published writers, and that would not be enough for me to continually comment on. No, my problem is the many novels Patterson sells which have, on the cover, A NOVEL BY JAMES PATTERSON with Bob Horton, or some other subcontractor who is actually doing the writing. People buy the novel thinking Patterson has written it when, in fact, the most he has done is outline the novel and checked it occasionally to make sure it appears genuine. That, to me, is fraud, and I think it’s unacceptable.

And no, it’s not just Patterson who does this. I first became aware of it reading Clive Cussler novels, and that was at least ten years ago. I suspect this is a fairly common practice and it annoys the hell out of me.

There, end of my rant for today.

No, that's not the end of my rant. It's like paying millions for a painting by Van Gogh, when it was actually a rip-off copy painted by some guy named Bob in a barn in Butte.

Now I'm done!

Upcoming Book

From Rodric: “Bill, God be thanked for your wife! Because of her, we have you! I feel like I should have a question. I do. What more can you reveal about your upcoming book?”

Truthfully, not much, Rodric. I’m actually “working” on two books, and that word “working” is in quotes because I’ve barely touched them in a couple months. I know where the two books are heading. The storylines are clear in my mind. I just haven’t made the time to write them because I wanted to take advantage of the summer weather. I knew I had an operation on the horizon, so I was motivated to get some projects done while I could still walk.

In the Shadow book, I can tell you that good will overcome evil, although the lines are blurred a bit with regards to who is good and who is evil. How’s that for a teaser?

In the other book, about growing up in the 60’s, I can tell you that evil will live on for two decades beyond the book timeline, and it is based on a true story.

Again, a great teaser!

Thank God there are no emails written by me in 1960.

Thank God there are no emails written by me in 1960.

Thank God There Were No Emails When I Was a Teen

I’m dead serious when I say that. We were sarcastic little shits back in the 60’s. Our bantering with each other, fifty years ago, could in no way be described as politically correct today. I would be humiliated if those conversations somehow saw the light of day today, and I doubt I’m alone in that observation. I’m a different person today. I’m more aware today. I realize the power of words today, and how they can hurt others. I was not nearly as enlightened back then as I am today, and the world is better for it.

Have a fantastic week, my friends, and remember to do all things with love. If you have a question for the Mailbag, include it in the comments below, or email the question to me at

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 25, 2021:

The times we live in, MG! For the life of me, I don't know why anyone would want to be a politician and be open to that kind of myopic scrutiny.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on October 24, 2021:

As usual, you sir, have encompassed quite a few interesting subjects. The point about emails is very valid but I wonder why should anybody take what you wrote years back seriously; I wonder if we can ignore ancient emails. Also, I do not see any reasons to blacklist a politician or a leader for something he would have written 20 or 30 years back. The same goes with the 'me too' movement which I feel is extremely silly to start talking about it after decades or maybe a long time back, after all, there is a law of limitation and why does it not apply in this case?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 24, 2021:

Genna, so good to hear from you. I hope you are well. Thanks so much for stopping by with an important message we all should consider before speaking. :)

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on October 23, 2021:

Hi Bill...

My grandmother once told me many years ago, "Never do or say anything you wouldn't want to appear on the front page of the local newspaper." Given the current social media fever of character judgment and/or evisceration, I think about her advice of so long ago. Just stopping by to say hello, my friend. Excellent article as always. And I look forward to reading your new book.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 22, 2021:

I laugh, Alyssa, thinking of social media when I was growing up. That was two kids yelling at each other from a block away. The whole neighborhood knew what was going on. LOL Happy weekend to you, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 22, 2021:

You summed it up perfectly, Farah! Thank you for this comment. Our naked faces standing in front of the mirror...powerful image and reflection, my friend.

Alyssa from Ohio on October 21, 2021:

You always crack me up Bill!

A good reminder for us all that our words live on the interwebs for all time. It's something I've instilled in my son. I, too, am thankful that we didn't have social media growing up. I wasn't allowed to use AOL and only got a MySpace once I turned 18 and ventured out on my own.

Thank you for another wonderful mailbag. Have a wonderful week!

Farah N Huq from Dhaka, Bangladesh on October 21, 2021:

Yes, people do change over time and I think it is wrong to judge a person based on what he did 20 years back unless he is still doing it. The internet is surely a storage of evidence of who we are inside. Imagine if the messenger and social media gave out all our regular conversation in chat box, how many of us can say that we do not have a problem with it? You are right, we should be careful while writing. In fact we should be careful in every aspect of our life so that we don’t regret to see our naked faces when we are forced to stand in front of the mirror. Noted all your points. Thanks for teaching us to fly.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 21, 2021:

I will, my friend! Thanks again!

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on October 20, 2021:

Bill, you're welcome. Keep going.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2021:

Good point, Miebakagh! I have better things to do than research the "mistakes" of people in past lives. I'm too busy trying to be the best me I can be.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2021:

Kalpana, I don't have the courage to call out people for their actions in the past. That would invite them to look at my past, and that is not a good thing at all. lol

Thank you for dropping by and taking the time to write such a nice comment. I appreciate you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2021:

It is possible, Linda. I'm sure they were important to the recipients, and I know a lot of people who save things like that. Me? I don't remember the last time I wrote a letter....maybe 2000?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2021:

Well howdy, MizB! LOL

I hate to admit it, but even if they added a glossary, I wouldn't take the time to read it. :) I figure if they are a good writer, the context of the idiom will give me a pretty good idea of the word. Unless I'm African, of course, and then all bets are off.

Happy Wednesday to you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2021:

Thank you Denise! You and me both with regards to the recovery time. I can't imagine being laid up for more than a few days. It seems like torture to me. I sure hope there's something good on tv.

Blessings always, my friend

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2021:

I really appreciate that, Devika. Thank you for always sharing part of your Monday with me.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2021:

All great examples, John, and not a one of them impresses me. I find it to be dishonest advertising at best. I had forgotten about Ludlum...shame on his publishers!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2021:

Heidi, exactly, bait and switch, and I do consider it to be dishonest in every way. I can't believe an author would be satisfied knowing they are getting sales in that manner, but then humans always find inventive ways to be dishonest, don't they?

Thanks as always! The rain has arrived with a vengeance. I guess I'm happy to see it. lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2021:

Thank you PS! It's amazing to me just how dumb some very smart people can be. Thank God there was no email when I was a young man. lol Those angels are always appreciated, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2021:

Thanks Bill! I wouldn't change the time I was a kid for anything. I had a great childhood, and learned many valuable lessons because of it. As for instant gratification, I figure 1200 words is good, and I doubt people actually read all 1200 words of it. lol

Happy Wednesday to you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on October 20, 2021: