Is There Anything You Refuse to Write?

In general, there’s very little I will refuse to write. There are certainly types of projects that I prefer to take on. I also know that there are certain kinds of writing that I’m just not particularly good at, so I tend to avoid them. But there aren’t a lot of projects that I simply refuse to take as an entire category. There are only a few things that I won’t even consider.

Essay Mills

Of the writing projects that I’ve been offered over the years, the only one that really hands down made me angry was an offer to write essays for an essay mill that would sell work to students who would then turn it in as their own. It’s not only an unethical practice in my book — it’s downright stupid. At the college level, a student is paying for an education, so why would he want to do anything that would diminish the value of the money he’s spending. There’s also an element of ‘I worked my butt off in school, so you should, too!’ in my refusal.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy to help students improve their writing: I worked as a tutor in college and still take on the occasional student as long as I know the person. But I’m not about to do any student’s work for them, no matter the price.

Pure SEO Writing

I’m talking about the stuff where you have to hit specific word densities and even include misspelled words on occasion. It’s bad writing, hands down, and I never want to get used to writing that way. I’m pretty sure it will ruin me for just about everything else.

I like writing content for the web in general, and I have no problem working with keywords. But, ultimately, I write for human readers rather than bots. I have no beef with anyone that would rather have machines read their work, though.

Adult Content

There’s nothing wrong in my book with writing content for adult sites. I realize that some writers are against such projects on a moral basis, but if it isn’t a problem for you, there’s decent money to be made. You may want to use a pseudonym in case Grandma is surfing the web, but beyond that, use your own judgment.

Personally, though, I just flat out can’t do it. I can’t take that kind of project seriously and often wind up giggling like a grade schooler just on the basis of project descriptions.

What About You?

Is there any type of writing project that you just won’t do? Something bothers you on an ethical level or something you just can’t wrap your head around?


  1. Susan Johnston   •  

    I refuse to do those projects where they want a thinly veiled rewrite of content from a competitor’s website. Seriously? You think that’s OK? It’s not. And it shows that the client doesn’t value professional copywriting because they want to cut corners and do something that’s ethically shady. I try to steer clear of any situation where I suspect that’s the case, but sometimes it can be hard to tell until you’re engrossed in the project.

  2. Anne Wayman   •  

    Your list is pretty good. I’d add any writing that is contrary to my spiritual and political beliefs… I’d have to lie to do it and that rarely works.

    I also have gotten pretty good at sussing clients out and if my intuition says don’t work for this person/site, I won’t.

  3. Isao   •  

    I won’t write something that has no element of surprise, be it entertainment or education or personal interest. We already have enough texts in this world (and they are growing), why re-phrase what we already know in a way we already know?
    In short, I try not to be utterly boring – am I the only one who feels a lifeless writing is worse than an unethical writing?

  4. thursday   •     Author

    @Susan, It definitely can be tough to recognize in advance! I once had a client who I asked to provide me some material on his own services and products — he printed out page after page of his competitor’s copy and effectively told me to go through and change the names. We had to have a long discussion about copyright law on that one.

    @Anne, You have a good point there. I do tend to avoid those sorts of projects as well, although a lot of time I only think about it as avoiding projects on topics I don’t know much about.

    @Isao, That’s an interesting point of view. I’ve taken on some technical writing projects where surprise is the last thing the client wants, but I’ll admit that I prefer working on projects that are more mentally engaging.

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