Write Better Hate Mail

A short note from all of us who write for magazines and newspapers to all of you who write long essays and emails denouncing us based on the title of our latest contribution.

(1) Authors don’t generally pick their titles. Editors do. Even if your screaming is justified, you are screaming at the wrong person. The author may not like the title either.

(2) It’s excusable not to know that authors usually don’t pick the titles of their articles because it’s the inside baseball of journalism. However, when you write your long ranting emails and essays based on a title that doesn’t match the content of the article (because a different person penned each) you are effectively announcing to the world that you feel comfortable making lengthy public pronouncements about material you have not in fact read. This is particularly acute when you make points that are in the author’s own piece and which you would have agreed with if only you’d troubled to read the piece you are criticizing.

End of PSA. You may now resume your regularly scheduled blathering, but those of us who write hope you won’t.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. He served as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009 to 2010.