The Word Count Nazis are Ruthless

I joined Nextdoor a few years ago, and by and large, I find it pretty informative…especially when it comes to things like recommendations for contractors. Want to find a plumber or electrician? Who better to ask than your literal neighbors. They’re also good at keeping you in the loop about things like porch pirates, suspicious vehicles, and where to find Girl Scout cookies.

Sometimes, though, I just don’t get the people on there. Take this post from the other day.

I laughed so hard I almost cried. Can’t believe this guy was so stumped over a freakin’ slug! Granted, they’re not as common in South Dakota as they are in the PNW, but c’mon.

“Maybe he’s never seen one before,” Tara suggested.

You know what? I’ve never seen a panda before, but I’m pretty sure I’d be able to identify one if it were on my bathroom floor.

There’s nothing mysterious about a slug. It’s a snail without a house attached to its back. I could see if it were some weird-looking black-and-red-striped bug maybe.

If nothing else, it gave me a good laugh.


I talked to my parents over the weekend, and they were quite complimentary.

“What a great article!” my mom and dad gushed. “You should be a writer or something!”

I was confused at first. Stupidly, I thought they were referring to the blog. “You liked the bit about DVDs?” I asked. I mean, it was a decent enough post, but hardly worthy of “great article!” accolades.

“We’re talking about the Wall Drug article,” my dad elaborated.

Well, duh! Of course. CenturyCo puts out a bimonthly newsletter that is mailed to 33,000 customers and I’d dropped a copy of the January issue in the mailbox. I figured the cover story, a feature on the iconic drugstore’s 90th anniversary, would interest them as we have been loyal customers forever. It was a fun story to write; during the interview, they treated me like royalty, and I got the inside scoop on their famed doughnuts.

Sure enough, my folks enjoyed it. The funny thing is, I’ve been a professional writer for almost a decade, but this was the first time they’ve ever acknowledged my talent like that. I know they will read this and object, but it’s okay—I get it. It’s all about the material. I mostly wrote parenting articles at Ye Olde Publishing Company, and they were fine, but not exactly compelling reads. Ditto with the ear, nose, and throat stuff I churned out for Fuel Medical. Nobody in their right mind reads articles about sinusitis or cleft palate surgery for fun. And they sure as hell didn’t take a gander at any of the government proposals I submitted for PSI. I guess this is the first time a job has involved interesting subject matter.

I did end up having to explain to my dad why my article didn’t mention that Wall Drug offers free doughnuts to military veterans (he always claims his). Yes, that came up in the interview, but so did a lot of other interesting things that didn’t make the final cut. Like Frances McDormand slinging hash in the Wall Drug cafeteria during a scene in Nomadland, the 2021 Best Picture winner. I told him that the newsletter is only eight pages, and there are five or six stories per issue, and the Word Count Nazis are ruthless. You really have to pick and choose what makes it into the article, and that will depend on the overall flow of the story. I think it says a lot about Wall Drug that their involvement in a successful Hollywood production didn’t even make it into print.

(It’s a really cool place, seriously. If you ever get a chance to stop in, please do.)

Then my dad asked why I don’t get bylines and that led us down another rabbit hole. He even suggested I sneak my name in sometime, ha. If you think the Word Count Nazis are strict, try getting so much as an extra comma past the Proofing Nazis.

I acted all humble and muttered something about “toiling in obscurity,” which might have been a tad overdramatic…but also true.

“If I care that much about bylines, I’ll go back to Ye Olde Publishing Company!” I declared.

Yeah, no, as they say in the Midwest.

24 thoughts on “The Word Count Nazis are Ruthless

  1. Somewhere my parents have a picture of young Betsy sitting on a taxidermied horse at Wall Drug. I’m glad you get to write more fulfilling stuff now.
    On my local Nextdoor, someone likewise took a picture of a coyote and asked what it was. Despite people overwhelmingly informing the person that it was a coyote, she kept insisting it wasn’t. I don’t get people sometimes.
    I would love to find a panda in my kitchen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah yes, family members who don’t know what you do, even if you’ve told them what you do. I hear ‘ya. I worry about the man who doesn’t know what a slug is. Partially because he might be dimwitted and you deserve better neighbors; also because I know someone with that last name who, last I heard, had moved to S.D.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I mumble at least 3x a week while looking at the Nextdoor app: WTF is wrong with people? Idiots. There are literal idiots next door.

    I love that your parents (finally) love something that you wrote. I mean, you just hadn’t touched on any fascinating (to them) subjects yet! I need to visit Wall Drug because those doughnuts look damn delicious.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The doughnuts are like crack. Seriously. They told me during the initial wave of the pandemic in 2020, when they closed down for six weeks, they had people calling every day asking if they could deliver donuts to their home or business!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The Nextdoor in my neighborhood is mostly overrun with conservative old white people who complain about the homeless, the trash, the teacher who has a BLM or Pride flag, and post every bit of copaganda they can find. Occasionally there will be a “lost dog” or “pretty sunset” photo. It’s mostly a hellscape, though.

    I can never get over the entitled mentality of asking questions online. You clearly have access to the internet. Try Google!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, yeah. Lost dogs are big, too. Forgot about those! Oddly, I live in a very conservative state, but don’t see too many of those types of posts on Nextdoor (fortunately). I will say I find the recommendations helpful though. I like to read about my specific neighbors’ experiences with a certain company as they tend to be more honest in their reviews and will answer questions. It’s helped us find both a plumber and a handyman for a very specific project (removing the cabinets above our refrigerator). Once I get a good recommendation then I Google away!

      Liked by 1 person

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