Claiming This Spot

The Writer Behind the Words

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Ever listened to your favourite speaker and thought, “They really know what they’re talking about?” What about that insightful article you read on the trendiest technology? You ended up getting into some heated debates with friends on which gadget is better based on the author’s opinion. And exactly how excited were you when you found out your favourite band posted these new lyrics that they say they wrote and the song ended up being a number one single? Chances are you shared it to all of your social platforms and created your own bass line for it in your head.

What if it was all a lie?

Ghostwriting is a controversial subject in many industries, and there is both acceptance and distrust of ghostwriters because of the many controversies involving companies that lack transparency. It is a legitimate practice through an agreement with the ghostwriter and client, usually through a monetary transaction. However, ghostwriting isn’t always easy to find (well, that is the point isn’t it?). There are various forms of ghostwriting:

  • Anonymous letters (e.g. from CEOs)
  • Using their ideas and words
  • Using their ideas, your words
  • Using your ideas, your words (Demian Farnworth)

I came across an example of ghostwriting during some research. Turns out The Diary of Anne Frank is a type of ghostwriting. The book is only based off of Anne Frank’s diary entries from the Second World War. Her father, Otto Frank, gathered the diary entries and reorganized and edited some entries to make the story clearer. He left his name off of the final draft when it was sentGhostwriter to the publishers.

I love this example because in this case the ghostwriter has some first-hand credibility to have finished this book on behalf of his daughter, which makes it emotional and not the typical feeling of deception since Anne Frank did not write some of it. Considering how popular and sensitive this classic book is, I believe this is an acceptable form of ghostwriting even though the book has sold so many copies over the years, but also because he only changed minor details and the order of the entries.

There are negatives to ghostwriting, of course. Ted Sorensen, the ghostwriter for President John F. Kennedy, wrote almost everything that Kennedy said. Kennedy had many famous quotes and speeches that Sorensen actually wrote. This initially raised a lot of concerns from the public because they loved Kennedy because of his words, which ended up not being his own. Dr. David Gruder, Phd and DECP talks about the ethics of this case from a few viewpoints.

I wouldn’t be surprised if ghostwriting became more popular in the years to come. It is one thing to have the Public Relations team write a speech for an executive for a company gala, a practice that is done as often as breathing. But if a company was not able to hire a PR team or didn’t have the time or skill on staff to write one, I don’t see why that work can’t be outsourced and then the credit is given to the executive like it would have if the PR team had written it. If you’re going to do a job, you might as well get it done right. Then at least some of your more expensive resources (employees) are freed up to do what they do best.

I’m interested in hearing any other examples of ghostwriting that you know of. Comment with your viewpoints, of which are always appreciated here.


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