Full Circle Communications

June 2014
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ease in writing?
"Ease in writing" comes from a poem by Alexander Pope, the British poet:
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, 
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance. 
Note he (and I) didn't say "easy writing." But just as dance lessons can help get you around the floor more gracefully, the goal for this newsletter is to share a tip or two to improve your writing.

Recipient of Constant Contact All Star Awards, 2011 through 2013!

One-on-One Writing Help: What to Expect  
Do you feel like your writing skills need a boost?

Conversely, has someone asked you for writing assistance?

When I wondered how to get the most out of one-on-one training, I asked Sarah A. Snyder, a writer and editor who trains individuals and groups.

Here's how Sarah answered my questions. She also suggested some resources, listed below.

What kinds of writing issues are most amenable to personalized training?

People who need help with

  • structuring and organizing their writing
  • common grammar, spelling, and punctuation issues (which she refers to as GSP) 
  • wordiness ("trimming the fat," she said)
  • how to get started when faced with a large project.
She also distinguished the roles of a trainer, coach, or editor, summarized below.

How do you assess what a person needs?

  • Review a writing sample of between 5 and 10 pages (even 5 one-page letters will do, she noted).
  • Discuss his or her writing goals
  • Discuss trouble spots as he or she sees them 
  • Share feelings/observations about writing in general and the writer's self-assessment
  • Quiz to assess their basic understanding of GSP

What kind of results can someone realistically expect?

Results are driven by what people want to achieve and whether their expectations are realistic. Although I can carry people only so far, I can guide writers in finding their voice and writing for their intended audience by showing how to choose the right words and the proper tone. I'm also a creative writer and a former journalist, so I teach people a little about storytelling.


A lot of people have taken my workshops or received personal coaching because the boss made them, not because they wanted to. I try to joke with the reluctant ones and be self-deprecating, which usually gets them to loosen up and begin thinking that writing doesn't have to be the fairy tale ogre they imagined.


Like math, writing takes practice in order to improve or even to maintain the same level of competence. To write better, you have to practice writing. In the end, the writer has to hone the skills.



How many sessions are typically needed?


Ultimately, the amount of instruction comes down to the writer's own diligence. For those who don't want to learn, no amount of sessions will help.


Ideally, for the people who really need it, I would like to work with them over the course of several months, starting out with meeting for a couple of hours every other week then reducing that to longer intervals between meetings and working with both long-term and shorter writing assignments.


For those who just need a refresher, we can work for a total of a few hours over the course of a couple of weeks.


What other advice do you give?


To become a better writer stylistically, read examples of good writing in your field of work/interest. I can point out what makes a piece of writing good: the way a good writer defines complex words or topics, illustrates a point, or transitions into another topic or writes a good opening or closing graph.  


Technical people often have difficulty writing for general audiences; they use language that is more suitable to fellow experts. I tell them they have permission to write like a human being.  


ResourcesResources to Improve Your Writing

Sarah Snyder suggested the following:
  • The Chicago Manual of Style for basic rules. (The Gregg Reference Manual is nearly identical to CMS in its style but easier to navigate.)
  • AP for learning how to spell and refer to government agencies, businesses, and for other terms
  • The Elements of Technical Writing by Robert Bly and Gary Blake
  • Strunk and White.
  • www.plainlanguage.gov/ and www.centerforplainlanguage.org 
  • universities' online writing centers (Google "university writing centers")
RolesKnow the Roles: Coach, Editor, or Trainer?

Here's what Sarah suggested said you might expect from different types of helpers:


Writing coaches:

  • suggest techniques motivating you
  • can bounce ideas off
  • help find ways to incorporate writing into your life
  • help find your voice and find markets
  • help you dissolve writer's block


Writer trainers:

  • help shape your writing to be clear and concise; meet audience needs and writing objectives
  • teach GSP and how to use and follow style guides
  • help structure your writing and find different writing formats appropriate for the audience, objective, and other needs.
  • guide you in writing you do on the job, including improving written communication skills to deliver bad, difficult news, or sensitive news



  • take on a role depending on your requirements/desires (content versus copy editing) 
  • check for GSP errors, as well as whether a piece of writing makes sense
  • check you answered all questions that the intended audience is likely to ask, while also meeting the writing objective
  • tighten copy for clarity and conciseness
  • can also educate you about why they made the changes.



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