Taking notes, writing, transcribing words, putting letters or symbols on paper to make words, sentences, and then texts. To keep a written record of what one wanted to say, what one wanted to leave to posterity and history or simply to record information so that it is not forgotten.
Writings remain, but words fly away. Since the invention of writing, man has always sought to record his life, his history and his facts, great or small. But who are they, these public writers, these scribes of modern times? Moreover, does this profession still exist today? Get out your pen, unroll your papyrus scroll and get ready, you too, to write lines in the great book of our History to all and sundry.
Scribes and company
The great adventure of writing began more than 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq. Quickly, a new profession appeared, that of public writer. Depending on the era and civilization, this function took on different names: in ancient Egypt, one spoke of the "scribe" (from the Latin scriba, from scribere, to write), then a state official, literate, educated in the art of writing and arithmetic. He could serve both Pharaoh and the general public.
In Europe, a little later, the druids, in addition to the magic potion of a man named Getafix, dealt mainly with religious affairs, but also educational. Their education and knowledge earned them the status of scholar and thus, gave them the power to read and write for the people.
Even later, in the Middle Ages, copyists appeared, professionals responsible for reproducing written documents or works of art. Finally, today, this official function of state functionary is still very much present in the guise of the "clerk," that ministerial collaborating officer who mainly assists notaries and lawyers in state, public, private or personal matters.
Whether on papyrus, marble tablets, clay or simple paper, these writing professionals have long been at the service of an illiterate population, up to that point mostly unable to read and write.
In the nineteenth century, with the advent of compulsory schooling, however, this profession would recede, as the newly educated population no longer needed an intermediary to read and write. However, in the 21st century, it is the new technologies that will give back to this function its titles of nobility. The scribe 2.0 is reborn from its ashes...
In 2021, France had about a thousand active public writers, of which two out of three were women.
Contrary to popular belief, no, the public writer is not a volunteer who does this for free. Since all work deserves a salary, his or her services are also paid for. It is certain that very often it is community or social organizations that call upon their services to help a certain population in great difficulty with the French language, but not only!
In fact, a new clientele seems to be emerging, one that knows how to write, but whose goal is to communicate more effectively. The need to ask for the services of an expert in the handling of words is therefore paramount. Professionals and individuals are the new clients. Their distribution (not exhaustive) shows the diversity of the public: among individuals, 39% are active, 37% are retired and 20% are students. Among professionals, 46% of VSEs and SMEs and 35% of associations and local authorities.
Diverse are the clients, diverse are the works too! The writings requested from the public writer can range from personal writings, to be kept for oneself, to administrative and professional documents whose final vocation is to be read and distributed. The most common documents will often be resumes or speeches, but the public writer will also have a proofreading and editing function, especially with regard to university dissertations or other manuscripts.
In addition to the literary, linguistic and syntactic aspect, the modern-day scribe must offer consulting, writing, rewriting, proofreading, correcting and formatting services, all without distorting the proper substance of what is at the origin and that, so as not to infringe on the ethics of his function.
Depending on the type of work, professional or personal, the word specialist will have to adapt his writings: efficiency, fidelity, authenticity, he meets the expectations of his customers.
Speaking of ethics, however, it is worth remembering that there is a limit that these professionals must not exceed. Can we write everything? No. At least not by their hand. Some work is taboo, such as letters of blackmail, threats, insults or even those that lead to fraud, plagiarism or any kind of illegal misappropriation.
Now, if the urge takes you to become a public pen, you should know that it is strongly suggested (but not required) to have a university degree in letters, law, humanities, journalism. Some universities even offer special degrees, such as the professional degree "Professional and private writing consultancy - public writer" (Sorbonne University, in Paris) or the DU (university degree) "Public writer / consulting author" (Toulon University), not to mention the CNFDI and the CNED, which also offer distance learning.
All of this little world is finally grouped into two organizations: the AEPF(Academy of Public Writers of France) and the GREC (Groupement des Écrivains Conseils).
Public Writer in the 21st Century is an "old profession with a future!"
Sources and IllustrationsPublic Writer, Voltaire Project, https://www.projet-voltaire.fr/documents/pv/ecrivain_public.pdfPixabay, https://pixabay.com/images/id-541146/ and https://pixabay.com/images/id-6667824/
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