You pay peanuts, you get … a punch in the goolies

Posted on Tue 05 Feb 2013 @ 3.26am HKT

THIS was originally a post on The Naked Listener’s Weblog, dated 25 March 2011. I thought it’s high time to revive this as a crosspost here because I’m seeing the same kind of stuff is on the rise again over the past fortnight or so.

(Parts of the original post have been amended for clarity, accuracy and style for posting here.)

* * *

Below is a real advertisement on Craigslist Hong Kong (if you can call stuff anywhere on Craigslist ‘real’). Just read it and you’ll see why.

My emphasis are red. My notes in square brackets (you know, these things: [ ]).

English writers needed

Date: 2011-02-14, 10:54PM

We are looking for English writers [1] to write articles on music, beauty and fitness topics.

We are looking for writers who are looking for long term work. [2]

Here are the basic requirements:

1. Min. of 1 year experience
2. Articles should be error free [3]
3. Articles should pass copyscape [4]
4. Well researched articles [5]
5. Articles should be minimum 500 words [6]


$1.00 per article of 500 words [7]
$2.00 per article of 1000 words

Should be able to start now.

The keyword phrase needs to be [8] in the article title, [9] first sentence [10] and used another 5-6 times throughout the article for a total keyword density of 1.5-2.5% [11]. We pay via PayPal within 24 hours of completion of each article project of 25 articles, so the sooner you can [12] finish the articles [12A] the sooner you will receive payment.

When we hire a new writer [13] we pay them [14] $11[15] at [16] completion of the first 10 article batch [17] to show that we pay.[18] The articles need to [19] be informative to the reader [20] with 100% correct grammar, [21] punctuation and free from factual errors.

Also, the articles must be [22] 100% unique; they will be reviewed through Copyscape and Plagiarism Detect for plagiarism[23]. If an article you submit does not pass Copyscape, or has spelling and punctuation mistakes, you will not be paid for that article until it is corrected and resubmitted to us for approval. We will not be able to pay [24] if [25] all requirements in this listing are not met [26], so please don’t [27] apply if you can’t [27] meet these requirements.

You agree that upon sending us the articles [28] all rights to the articles transfer to us. This means you will not sell, reproduce or re-use [29] these articles in any way. Please be able to communicate [30] at least one time per [31] day via email or messenger [32]. Application will only be considered with a sample article on a topic that we choose.

• Compensation [33]: $1.00 per article of 500 words, $2.00 per article of 1000 words
• Telecommuting is ok. [34]
• Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t [27] contact this job poster.
• Please, no phone calls about this job!
• Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.


Original URL:

* * *

‘If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.’

That’s the old adage in business.

In this particular case, the advertiser is paying LESS THAN peanuts, so he (we assume it’s a he) is getting —

  • castrated with a blunt instrument,
  • without anaesthesia,
  • at dawn,
  • very slowly,
  • by an inexpert hand.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, quite honestly.

Clearly, some local moron copied this advert from some genuine job advert somewhere, and altered bits here and there to shoehorn the thing into his/her ‘stunt.’ I know so. I’ve seen the real version of this advert before, many times, over many years and in several different countries, in a serious (even professional) setting.

But this is the first time I’ve actually seen the ludicrous payment rate of $1.

* * *

Count the heads so they can roll, baby

Let’s do that thing called headcounting that lawyerly types like The Naked Listener is so enamoured to doing. (I remind readers/listeners that I used to be a professional editor before I switched to the less profit-challenged line of a printer.)


Skip this part if you’re a ‘native’ English speaker, i.e. grew up speaking it.

[1] Factual error/ambiguity: English — meaning what? Writers who are English from England? Writers who write in the English language? Only a Chinaman would write something like this.

[2] Ungrammatical: long-term is hyphenated as a adjective, dumbo.

[3] Ungrammatical: error-free is hyphenated.

[4] Factual error: Copyscape is capitalised roman: it is a service-mark/trademark.

[5] Ungrammatical: well-researched is hyphenated.

[6] Ungrammatical: Either of minimum 500 words or of 500 words minimum.

[7] Factual ambiguity/assumptions: Indicate the currency. We assume the price is in U.S. dollars and not Hong Kong dollars (US$1 = HK$7.75). If the job poster intended Hong Kong dollars, then we have to assume he/she was asking for death threats to be made against him/her. At any rate, it works out to 0.2¢ (or one-fifth of a U.S. cent) a word. This is the definition of insanity.

[8] Ungrammatical: Use either has to be or should be — don’t use needs to be in this context because that’s f*cking rude: you need to be a little more responsible if you want to work with writers who produce original articles for your stupid whatchamacallit.

[9] Punctuation style: Replace comma with and because article title and first sentence form their own individual listing clause: The keyword phrase has to be in the article title and first sentence, and used another…

[10] Punctuation: Insert comma because and used another… is another clause.

[11] Style: The correct way is 1.5%–2.5% (extra % sign required).

[12] and [12A] Ungrammatical: Delete can and add a comma, as in: The sooner you finish the articles, the sooner you will receive payment.

[13] Punctuation: Insert comma: When we hire a new writer, we pay…

[14] Superfluous: Delete them.

[15] Ambiguity — “$11” for what? Per word? Per article? For the whole lot of 10 articles? Tell us the rate per something, for pete’s sakes! The ad writer had meant to say $11 for the entire first batch of 10 articles. Isn’t that easier to express?

[16] Ungrammatical: Replace at with on or upon: on/upon completion of

[17] Ungrammatical: 10 article is an adjective and should be hyphenated: 10-article.

[18] Stylistics: The sentence could be written more smoothly as We pay all new writers at the rate of $11 for the entire first batch of 10 articles to show that we are committed and can pay.

[19] Ungrammatical: Replace need to with should: The articles should be…

[20] Argumentative/ambiguous assumption: It would be nice if you could actually spend five seconds to think things through with your copy and tell us what kind of reader you have in mind.

[21] Ungrammatical and incorrect punctuation: Same reasoning as in points [9] and [10] above: replace comma with and.

[22] Ungrammatical: Replace must be with should be (first choice) or has to be (second choice).

[23] Factual error: Yeah, right on about plagiarism. Like your own f*kken advert threw up literally 42+ results on Cityscape itself. You lie, you DIE.

[24] Ungrammatical/stylistics: replace will not be able to pay with cannot pay (first choice) or will not pay (second choice) or will be unable to pay (third choice). Will not be able to pay is not even f*cking English, dickhead!

[25] Illogical/ungrammatical: Replace if with unless because the conditions set by the ad writer are not contingent on chance but on the candidate’s fulfilment of them.

[26] Ungrammatical: replace not met with unmet. Only a pretentious Chinaperson would dare write not met in this way and in this context because that’s how Chinese phraseology operates. Job poster, you are causing other people to be racist at us.

[27] Stylistics and consistency: Either use contractions or spell out can’t and don’t throughout the copy. Don’t waver between full spellings and contractions.

[28] Punctuation: Insert comma.

[29] Punctuation: reuse is solid (i.e. unhyphenated); it is no longer hyphenated in modern English.

[30] Carelessness: Insert missing words with us.

[31] Factual ambiguity: A human messenger or did you mean Windows Live Messenger (i.e. MSN)?

[32] Factual error: it’s fukken called remuneration, you blithering idiot.

[33] Orthography: capitalise ok (i.e. OK) or spell it okay.


  • Grammatical errors: 15
  • Factual errors: 6
  • Punctuation errors: 6
  • Style and consistency problems: 4
  • Assumption problems: 4
  • Orthography problems: 1
  • Carelessness (lack of attention to detail): 1
  • Logic problems: 1
  • Total problems/errors: 38

* * *

(a.k.a. ‘your days are numbered’)


WAKE UP! I need you to be focused!

This abortion of an advert is littered with grammatical and style mistakes. No self-respecting copywriter or editor or plain ole’ writer could physically make them. Not even while doing LSD or meth or some other hard narc shit while turning sick perv BDSM tricks in a dirty toilet with a trannie (i.e. a tarp/trap) and a strapon dominatrix. Not even once.

And heeeeere’s Johnny with his undefeated, stupendous left hook smack-whack at the jaw with the force of a thousand suns:

“One dollar? Head needs to be opened.”

(Johnny is a teenage neighbour of mine who barely speaks or reads English, but clearly much more efficient and succinct than The Naked Listener in editorial assessments.)

One, the whole tone is wrong. It’s a highly threatening tone. It’s not like you or I were already working as a staff employee for this ‘job poseur poster’ because that would be barely acceptable/legal. Yo friggin’ dissin’ us, talking Five-O on us, brotha.

Two, don’t bleedin’ come on in a threatening tone disguised as stringent specifications. If you do, better make sure the remuneration you’re offering isn’t on the weird side of LSD-meth-cocaine-opium town. What you pay, is what you get, choadboy.

Three, you don’t deserve “100% unique” articles (not even for free) if make unfunny jokes about money.

Dad used to say I could never really take a joke about money. I’m not moneyminded or a tightwad, but to me, a joke about money is roughly ±10% of that actual mark.

This, yo-ho-ho, this is an incendiary letter (in Scottish legal parlance, whether a letter or otherwise) or dire provocation (in English law). In my parlance, this is an invitation to a Southern death threat (not to be confused with the really nice rock band of the same name).

Four, hey, you little piece of deformed shit, you can’t even do a simple advert on a portal like Craigslist. You can’t even do it without plagiarising several dozen of the same, already-recycled advert, AND THEN make grammatical mistakes. Main reason: your mother’s a crack whore and your father’s a failed faggot who can’t do a goatse.

* * *

Ultimately, you’re dead meat, son

“I know what you’re thinking: ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” ~ Dirty Harry

* * *


Job ads like the one we’ve just covered probably were meant to be spam circulated for the benefit of SEO (search engine optimisation, not super ejaculation orifice). The days that this kind of spamming article worked are long gone, as one commentator put it to me.

That I know. Yet you’d be surprised there are actually such anal ringworms people in Hong Kong who are actually thick-skinned enough to offer employment on such abusive terms. I did this post so that I could refer these sick lusers back here to tick them off.

When that offensive Craigslist ad first appeared, I actually emailed the job poster once a week for two months (seven messages in all) just to make fun of him and harass him to hell. Be advised that I categorically don’t go around harassing people as normal or even abnormal person conduct. But this ad really, really got up my nose for some reason. So I set my calendar to remind myself on fix time and dates to fire off email to that personage. Not once did that personage answered my email — but I knew all messages went to an genuine email address and that someone there had read them. Draw your own conclusions.


This post contains 1,599 1,957 words.

Time spent on writing was 1 hour.

Time spent on formatting was 14 minutes.

Time spent being totally flummoxed by the advert
was pretty much 10 hours since first viewing.

Do you think my post is worth more or less than $1?


This post originally appeared in The Naked Listener’s Weblog on 25 March 2011 at the URL:


© Learn English or Starve, 2013. Reproduced from © The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2011.

Images: “Pay peanuts” via Zazzle | Grammatical errors chart via GraphJam.