Tag Archives: etiquette

If You Can’t Say Something Nice, Don’t Say Anything At All


That’s what my mother taught me and for the most part I stick to it. 

Unless you cross me. If you piss me off, I’m like a bear with a sore tooth. And maybe a hangover to boot. Who is nevertheless extremely articulate. In this frame of mind, my husband describes me as ‘dangerous’. I’m relentless. I cannot be stopped. At least, it hasn’t happened yet. 

When my husband is the unfortunate object of such ire, he says he’s left with the feeling that he definitely lost the battle, but in a dazed and bewildered way, he’s not precisely sure how. I don’t swear when I’m angry. I use a lot of big words. That, he says, is the scariest thing about it. He knows I’m angry but he doesn’t understand a damn word I’ve just said. 

If you have read my Twitter profile, you already know this a little bit. If you haven’t read my Twitter profile, you probably should…

I’m not currently that pissed off. I’m just a little…irked, if you will. 

I had a blog post all planned for today. And this isn’t it. Because someone…irked me. 

Two days ago I posted Worldbuilding 101 as Taught by Robert Jordan. One of my Triberr tribemates tweeted it out and one of hisfollowers sent this tweet. 


Well. That was articulate. 

I wasn’t entirely sure how to take that tweet. Was he saying my entire post was ‘Duh’? If so, clearly I didn’t agree or I wouldn’t have posted it. Was he saying a particular part of my post was ‘Duh’, in which case, more information please. Or was there something else I had completely missed? 

So I asked. 

The response I got was something along the lines of ‘The details will vary depending on the impression you are trying to convey’. 

Well I would have thought that went without saying. For those of you who read the post on worldbuilding, you’ll know that I did not dictate what details should be used in worldbuilding, only what details you might consider determining in order to fully realise the world. I gave examples. I suggested sources of inspiration. But how you build your world is ultimately up to you. I don’t want to build it for you. Frankly, you couldn’t pay me to build it for you. I have enough of my own that need building. 

I said something to the effect that I had not purported to tell people what details to use in their worlds.
Before even receiving that response, this person then tweeted some actions which were clearly recognisable as the angry habits of Nynaeve from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. If you’re a fan, you’ll know them; the smoothing of skirts, the yanking of the braid. I was even more confused. This seemed to be an example of characterisation and I didn’t see the connection with worldbuilding. I said as much. 

To which the reply was ‘Believe me, I sincerely regret ever saying anything. It was a good post but it’s sad that it needs to be said’. 

It is? Really? So… writers should spring from the womb fully cognisant of the finer points of worldbuilding? I really must make my 18-month old daughter do all the worldbuilding in future so I can get on with the actual writing. 

I, politely I thought, said that it would have been helpful had he given that response in the first instance instead of ‘Duh’ (as obviously it is far more informative) and that I didn’t consider it to be sad that it had to be said. New writers don’t know everything. In fact, now that I think of it, no one knows everything. 

Recently I took a workshop on worldbuilding which covered the finer points of slang, profanity and other invented words. This despite twenty years of writing. It taught me things that perhaps I subconsciously knew but consciously studying it helped me to use it more effectively.

Before receiving my polite response, this person then tweeted to me ‘I understand you’re boring, you’re a lawyer, but why bother writing?’

Whoa. You’ve spoken to me for maybe 5 minutes or a total of 1400 characters (assuming you used all your allotted 140 characters per tweet, which you didn’t) and out of that you:
  • Presume to know me well enough to make a judgement call about who I am;
  • Presume that this entitles you to insult me to my face; and
  • Stereotype lawyers (and possibly I’m the only one you’ve ever met socially).
Just wow. 

To be honest, I was more offended by the fact this person felt they had a right to insult me than by the actual insult. I’ve been called boring plenty of times before, usually by people who didn’t know me very well and whom, once they got to know me, fervently wished they still thought I was boring. These are the people who describe me as ‘Interesting’. There’s a pregnant pause before that word and a certain inflection when spoken. Visually I can best represent it like this ‘She’s….in-ter-resting.’ This broadly translates as ‘stark raving mad’ or ‘totally crackers’. So yeah, I’m not really insulted by boring. It’s probably safer for his sanity to think that. 

If you think all this is bad enough – but wait, there’s more!

Not only did I discover that this person attacked another Twitter friend of mine last week (for unacceptable religious and racial reasons, notwithstanding his assumption was completely erroneous) but when several of my loyal Twitter friends leaped to my defence, he insulted one of them too. My Tweep declared ‘You may have been gifted with the knowledge at birth, but others have not. These blogs are for them.’ To which this person replied ‘No, it’s called having a functioning brain cell, you freak.’

Really? At this point in time I’m inclined to believe this person doesn’t have any functioning brain cells. 

My husband suggested it was penis envy. You know, where guys behave like dicks to compensate for *ahem*. Except it’s not that his penis is smaller than mine (obviously, I don’t have one) but his following. He has 26 followers. I have, as of this week, around 5000 (and I am grateful to every single one of you! *mwah!*). My husband might be right. Or, you know, the guy might not have any functioning brain cells. 
What is even more hilarious is his Twitter profile, which reads ‘Enlightened Being’ and his website which reads ‘profoundly insightful, infinitely wise and painfully humble’. Really? Did I blink cause I seem to have missed that.

I am embarrassed that this person touts themselves as an epic fantasy writer. Mortified that I share any kind of category with such an intolerant, bigoted, entitled, patronising, egotistical maniac. I’m not sure if this behaviour technically meets the online slang definition of ‘troll’, but the behaviour was about as uncivilised as that of trolls who populate fantasy worlds.

I don’t understand why people feel the need to behave like this. If you don’t like the post, don’t read it. If you don’t like me, don’t talk to me. You can avoid so much angst by just ignoring the things that bug you. It’s not like he thought I was misleading writers or distributing false information! There is no reason to start a pointless, baseless argument and insult someone over something so minor. This kind of behaviour probably accounts for why he only has 26 followers instead of, say, 500 (based on his ratio of tweets to mine – 2000 tweets, he’s not new to Twitter by any means).

As my mother said, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. It’s called manners, people. Courtesy. It exists for a reason. It’s the grease in the gears of society. 

I terminated the conversation after I was insulted. I had a lot of things I wanted to say, but I am here to market myself and my books and it’s very easy for a 140 character tweet to be taken out of context or misunderstood and damage one’s reputation. Really he just wasn’t worth it. 

So I’m saying it here, where I have plenty of room to say it how it is. 
Cause, you know – somebody has to say it! 

Twitter Etiquette and Marketing

Etiquette. I’m big on etiquette.

Not the kind of etiquette that says things such as, in relation to tea:
‘After stirring, place your spoon quietly on the saucer, behind the cup, on the right hand side under the handle.’

I don’t see the point in this. Why does it matter where on the saucer you put the spoon? Putting it down may have value – I’m thinking about the person at the next table who taps their cutlery in a repetitive and annoying fashion. But am I likely to be offended or inconvenienced by where on their saucer they put their spoon? I doubt it.

No, I mean the kind of etiquette that helps us manage relationships, usually with people we don’t know well, and avoid conflict.

Allow me to explain further. Some of you may have seen the #stabbylove hashtag going around on Twitter. A few people have asked me about it. I explained it (in a non-writing context, as not everyone who asked is a writer) as:

‘#Stabbylove is when you tell your best friend that, yes, her dress does make her butt look big. Because she needs to know, and you love her’.

Someone then asked me (tongue in cheek, I’m sure) why that doesn’t apply to strangers.

Well, the real answer is ‘etiquette’. We can say something like to this to our best friend because she knows we mean well and we’re trying to help her not to embarrass herself. If we didn’t tell our friend, and she found out later, she’d be mortified.

The stranger on the street, on the other hand, will probably just think we’re being nasty and be offended. Because they are likely to be offended, it’s simply rude to say so. It’s bad etiquette, even if you meant well. Such is the oil that greases the wheels of civilisation.

Etiquette should be easy. It’s common-sense, and it doesn’t take much effort. Unfortunately common-sense isn’t all that common and too many people are lazy, which breeds a culture of rudeness and selfishness.

Etiquette also runs into problems when we develop new technologies. It’s commonly accepted now that to write LIKE THIS in an email is to shout at the recipient, but when email was new, we didn’t have those kinds of accepted practices.

So what about Twitter etiquette? Although there is no written rule that says I must, I routinely welcome my new followers. It takes nothing except a little time on my part, and I think it’s a nice courtesy. Nice enough that more than a few people have commented on it. With fairly minimal effort on my part, I have made someone feel good. Not sure there is a downside to that! There may come the day when this is no longer sustainable, but I haven’t reached that point yet.

But there are many things on Twitter that annoy me and other people I know. I think they are discourteous, but if you are a writer who is marketing yourself on Twitter, you should also consider the effectiveness of the techniques you are using. Will you sell more books by doing something that annoys someone? Probably not.

So here is a list of the things that personally annoy me:

• Repeated spamming of my timeline with promotional tweets about your book or blog and nothing else. I don’t mind promotional tweets here and there, but when I can go through the timeline of a list that has one hundred people in it and see nothing but a long list of promotional tweets for your book or blog, you are tweeting it too much. Once every few hours would be my maximum guideline, but if you must insist, once an hour might be acceptable. And please, try to tweet something else in between. I am more likely to read your book or blog after I have gotten to know you personally – if I like you. In the case of blogs, I know some people who won’t follow you until after they have read your blog, in which case you don’t need to promotional tweet them. In either case, your tweets are either ineffective or unnecessary;

• Sending a direct message to welcome a new follower. If you want to welcome someone, do it publicly. Is there any reason you can’t? Your new follower gets a mention, and if you’re going to be nice enough to welcome someone, why would you want to hide it away? Of all the things in this list, this one probably annoys me the least. It’s only a minor irk. But hey, if you are marketing yourself, don’t you want to show everyone how fabulous you are?

• Sending a direct message to a new follower – and you’re not following back! Don’t get me wrong, I do not subscribe to an auto-follow or follow for follow policy (more on that later). But it’s just rude to send someone a direct message they can’t reply to. Few things on Twitter annoy me as much as this one, and after I’ve tried and failed to send you a direct message, I’m unlikely to bother tweeting you. If you are going to contact someone, do so in a format that gives them the opportunity to respond. As well as being courteous, this also helps you to connect more meaningfully with your followers.

• Sending a direct message to a new follower – and it’s spam. The last thing I want from someone I just followed is spam. I don’t know you yet. Sending me a spam direct message does not help me to know you, but it helps me to dislike you. Get to know people before you encourage them to read your blog or your book – especially a book you expect them to pay for. People are more likely to respond positively if they know you and like you. Spam is not likeable. I know people who will automatically unfollow someone who sends them a direct message that is spam. Think about that before you decide to use this to market yourself.

• Repeated requests to F4F (follow for follow). I do not F4F or auto-follow. When someone follows me, I will check their profile, and if they look interesting, I will follow them. But I may later unfollow them if they don’t prove interesting. I don’t expect people to follow me back just because I follow them, although now that Twitter is imposing rationing on the people I can follow, I may from time to time unfollow people who are not following me. I may find them interesting, but if I have to choose between two interesting people, and one likes me and interacts with me and one doesn’t… Well, I don’t think the choice is too hard, do you?

• Auto-response – I only just came across this one in time for this blog, so maybe it’s not very common – or maybe I just hadn’t noticed. I received an ‘automated’ direct message from someone I just followed. Now it’s entirely possible some of the tweets I’ve complained about above are also automated, but this one had some kind of tag that drew my attention to this fact. I was unimpressed. I did not feel welcomed by an auto-response. It was like the recording you get when on hold to a call centre – ‘Your call is important to us’. No it’s bloody not. This person had ‘welcomed’ me and probably didn’t even know I was following.

Now I’m not suggesting these things annoy everyone, or that this is a universal list of unacceptable Twitter behaviour. But they annoy me. They annoy some people I know. If you’re doing any of these things, you are not marketing effectively to us. There’s a reasonable chance you’re not marketing effectively to other people.

Stop and think when you devise your marketing strategy. Think about what annoys you, and people you know. If the things that annoy you are not Twitter related (e.g. unsolicited telemarketing calls) think about what might be a Twitter equivalent (e.g. unsolicited spam direct messages). And don’t do them.

Think clever, be courteous, and above all – be effective.

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