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How Not To Seek Writing Help — A Guide For The Cheeky And Clueless

How Not To Seek Writing Help — A Guide For The Cheeky And Clueless
How Not To Seek Writing Help

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Standing on the shoulders of giants, as Isaac Newton revealed, can be helpful in becoming a better writer.

But I’ve observed and I’m worried lately that not everyone understands how to do that. In the other way round, some people are laughably clueless as not to know the basic, everyday etiquettes of seeking and getting writing aid.

There are some commonsense protocols and manners to exhibit when seeking assistance and getting the prospects interested in helping you.

Get it wrong and end up annoying others … everyone else.

What am I talking about?

Maybe I’ve been speaking in parables. Some examples should make it clear.

I recently received the email below from a complete stranger (I haven’t edited the message a bit):

Pls can you write for me this essay or coach me on how to write it. Is
an essay competition. The topic is “NATIONS WHICH ARE ECONOMICALLY

A couple of months ago, I received a copy of the text message below from a brash guy I know somehow (words in bracket are my explanation):

Check your mail the article title; (the article title here) is in your mail. Edit and publish. Forward to me through (his email here), so I send dailies. Is urgent

I have received other similar ones on social media lately. These are crass, mediocre ways of going about the art of seeking writing help. Let’s see what they aren’t getting right.

Getting writing help is a privilege, not a right

Naija Writers’ Coach is an online writing portal with an avalanche of FREE awesome writing resources. I spend several hours every week scouting for information and bringing same to your doorstep almost daily.

No one pays me to do that. It’s my passion to give back to the writing community, the empowerment and inspiration I’ve received.

I don’t place adverts (at least not for now). Instead, I spend my precious resources and limited time bridging opportunity gaps and providing writing guides.

So whomever I assist in editing or critiquing his work only enjoys a privilege. I have no obligation to do so.

Editors don’t help strangers at first sight

Anytime your first interaction with an editor is to ask him to help you write or edit, it’s not going to work.

Not on social media. Not by email, by text … nor in person.

I have students I coach for a fee. I also regularly help others edit and critique their pieces for a price.

And I sometimes (very rarely though) help other writers improve their write-ups for FREE — but usually, only writers I’ve known for some time.

I might not have met them. Maybe they’ve been commenting here on my blog, maybe they’ve conversed with me on Twitter or Facebook times before or maybe they’ve emailed or called me just to say ‘hi’ a couple of times before.

They’re scattered everywhere – Unilorin, LAUTECH, Unilag, ABU, Kwara Poly, Unijos, etc. – but they’re definitely not people I haven’t had a previous memorable contact with.

So a great step in seeking writing help is getting to know and creating familiarity with editors… not asking for help at first sight.

You plead, not command

The second example of wrong mannerisms in seeking writing help above is annoyingly pushy and bossy. He wrote 23 words and 4 of them are top-down orders: “check,” “edit,” “publish” and “forward”.

Everyone would do well to learn to be courteous and respectful in his approach and dealings. No one loves to listen to or help insolent people.

Some words – “please,” “thank you,” “I’m sorry,” etc. – are so magical in getting results that anyone should not speak for long before uttering them.

They effectively build as much as they can salvage a crumbling relationship … any relationship.

Other common blunders to avoid

Other species of this gaffe that I’ve seen are:

  • Seeking free research or editing and giving me a deadline to send back the write up (as if you should seek free editing at all, after the many free writing tips I provide weekly).
  • Sending me links to some mediocre websites and asking for a free critique of the articles there.
  • Offering prayers which are conditional upon my succumbing to the impolite request (e.g. Remain blessed as you do it for me.”)

Beware! None of these methods will work. They never did … and never will!

These tips are vital for writers as much as everyone else … useful in getting writing help as well as sailing through life.

What’s your experience with annoying advances from help seekers? Leave a comment and let’s get talking.

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About Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin

Writer. Difference Maker. Entrepreneur. Author, Your Right To Write & Vertical Writing. Winner, 11 Writing Prizes.


  1. Brose don vess! I get your point oh.

  2. Tohir Olaitan says:

    May be they did know the best way to ask for help.Please forgive them for their blunders.And I hope that others will learn from your piece above as I have taken my lesson.

  3. Amatanweze kingsley says:

    Yes, you are right on point. Well said! Some corrections on manners give, and i believe, taken also. Keep on the Good Work. Dont be discouraged. I am student of unn, and i have been following you. You are a rare gem! Thumb up!

  4. u are absolutely on point bro, more power to your elbow, although we ve not met for once, but i ve heard alot about you and i know what it takes to acquire the skills involved in writing cum editing. so these are important clues we should take note of..

  5. Ayeyemi Taofeek Aswagaawy says:

    Salam aleik brother.
    I have being following your site since last year. Sincerely, it is filled with knowledge no teacher can give. Also, elevating opportunities which you brings to the fore for prospective writers are the crux of my incomium and i hope, very soon, i will post a thank you message herein.

    As regards the manners of approach chanelled towards helper by the helpee, it is an important skill to learn. You will never see a counsel before a judge to be assertive, everything is pleading.

    I have met with junior colleagues seeking for my help on courses which i have done previously with stupid aproach like:

    Do you know……
    Do you understand……
    What is your score in……
    Can you pass a knowledge on……
    All these questions usually recieve a negative response – NO.

    But approaches like:

    Please, help me on…
    Please, come and teach me…
    Sorry for disturbing you, i dont understand this and i need your help…
    (At times playfully from junior learning colleagues: your lordship, counsel seeks to learn from the juristic spectacle of the bench, or from your wealth of knowledge).
    My response to these type of approach are always in the affirmative. At times, I give out materials.

    Thanks for this clue, God is our strength.

    • Wa alaikum salaam Taofeek,

      Thanks for your awesome comment. It’s refreshing reading it and learning from your experience. Like I said, the tips are of universal application. Courtesy is what one needs in every situation.

      Your comment is so good it could be a whole post 😉

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