Virtual Literacy Training
by Diane Hall
As a freelance writer, proofreader and literacy coach, you could say I have a passion for words. Simmering with disapproval at typos and misspelt words, I qualified as a proofreader to offer a service aimed at tackling these textual mistakes. What I quickly learned is that unless you have your own personal proofreader, these mistakes will keep on happening – and could go as far as to jeopardise certain situations, such as job applications, SME marketing, letters of complaint etc.
It sounds an overreaction, but no one will take you seriously if your literacy is ‘under par’. Many a professionally-crafted C.V. has been filed in the bin because the accompanying letter or e-mail has been littered with grammar and spelling mistakes. Who would trust that a product or service would be of any quality from someone who can’t make the text of their POS or marketing material accurate? The only impression bad literacy presents is a negative one – and it doesn’t matter how fabulous your product is; no one will get to find that out.
A literacy coach restores power to the marketer. There are so many words in our language, and put together in the right order, the power or impact they could hold is insurmountable. Poetry has the potency to inspire; works by Shakespeare and his peers could, and still can, animate, stimulate and engage the reader – and the only tool they used was their vocabulary. Wouldn’t anyone like to harness this influence for their own gain?
After monitoring the letters sent via frontline staff from various large companies, I realised that the corporate world was lacking effective writing content and literacy skills as much as any individual. However, unless I wanted to spend half my day travelling to see these companies, my services had to be virtual. This actually presented me with a USP.
There are currently companies out there who will deliver this coaching to a corporate firm. It is usually done by herding the staff considered eligible for help into a meeting room to listen to these tutors in a lecture-style session. This does not work effectively on two levels – firstly, not everyone has the same literacy skills or needs and secondly, to do this type of coaching en masse is impersonal and disengaging. If this method worked for everyone then no individual would be lacking in literacy as their schooling system would have been sufficient in instilling these abilities.
The internet, therefore, was an obvious solution. There is certainly no reason why one-to-one coaching has to be done face to face. Email coaching is one variance to this where I evaluate original compositions from clients and highlight areas which I perceive as needing work, accompanied with suggestions. Skype (www.skype.com) and web-cam technology also give me ‘face to face’ capability and allows conversational explanation on various points of a client’s writing that I have raised.
With today’s technology, the service I offer knows no bounds. Although colloquial and geographical differences sometimes occur, the crux of language and rules of grammar are the same for any English-speaking country. Therefore, the internet is a vital tool for me on my mission to improve literacy in the world of enterprise, and I often work out of ‘normal’ business hours to ensure a client’s business productivity isn’t affected. Using just my laptop or the internet access through my mobile phone, I am able to provide support, help and advice at any time, anywhere.
Once I had commissioned a website – http://www.thewritinghall.co.uk – I then started a blog http://www.thewritinghall.wordpress.com through www.wordpress.com; technology I found easy to understand. I especially sought value from my blog to convey my own writing style and further showcase the experience I have on the subject of literacy. I also set up obligatory accounts with both Facebook and Twitter for The Writing Hall, to encourage traffic to my site and ultimately tap into a larger client base.
Whatever level of literacy is exercised by the client, my coaching is tailored to their weaknesses – and with my insights, writing experience and coaching skills, I not only show them how their writing can be more effective, but I endeavour to instil the reasons WHY one word can prove more effective than another. Then the next time they need to produce engaging and accurate content, they will be able to captivate their audience and rouse them into submission.
The irony that strikes me, however – is the more successful I am on my literacy crusade, the less work I am likely to secure as a proofreader! Visit http://www.thewritinghall.co.uk for more details or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org