Is a writing coach like a sports coach?
If you think of a coach as someone who helps athletes improve performance, yes. We understand that top performance in sports or the arts requires ongoing practice and making continuous small improvements based on expert feedback. In writing, we often expect ourselves to turn in top performance without adequate training or feedback.
Why do so many people find it hard to write?
As a high school English teacher, I taught students how to analyze literature and support opinions. Those skills help professionals understand how others think and feel and how to be persuasive. However, on the job most people write mainly memos and emails. Students are rarely taught the easiest and most effective ways to organize the writing they do at work. That’s one place that I can help them improve.
So if I just learn how to write memos and emails, writing will be easy?
Writing will be easier, not necessarily easy. If you’re comfortable with the format of memos and emails, you’ll find it easier to organize your thoughts. However, writing involves/starts with thinking. And thinking is work. Really good writers think about two things: what they want to say and how to make it easy for readers to understand.
I wasn’t that good at writing in school. What makes you think I can improve? The first time I baked cookies, I wasn’t that good a baker. After baking dozens of cookies, I got much better. Now I’m learning to cook with low-carb flours. Am I good at it? Not yet. But I will be. Writing is a skill. With practice and good feedback, it can be improved. You know more about your business now than you did when you started. Assume that you can learn to write better, too.
I don’t want to do lots of grammar exercises.
Then you’re in luck. The best way to reduce errors is to target specific mistakes in your own writing and learn strategies to identify and correct them. Most people don’t make many different kinds of errors; they make the same mistakes over and over. That’s why I recommend using a Personal Proofing Checklist to target the most serious errors and conquer them a few at a time.
Do I really need a coach?
Perhaps not. A quick review of apostrophes might be all you need. However, if you tend to make serious grammar errors, research shows that people often judge you as less professional. Good writing skills also increase your chances for promotion, according to a Business Roundtable survey.
How do I start?
If you’re not sure whether coaching could benefit you, take the quiz or talk to your boss about how improving your writing might help your chances for promotion and even improve how others view your company. If you’re ready to move forward, check out these coaching options.
Strategic approach: The most effective grammar instruction is based on learning strategies, not rules (Quible, 2008).
What’s a serious grammar error? Maxine Hairston did the first study on status-marking errors in 1981. Her findings on status-marking errors have been confirmed in several later studies, including Leonard and Gilsdorf (1990), Kantz and Yates (1994), a California Polytechnic linguistics class (1999), Connors and Lunsford (1986), Beason (2001), Gray and Heuser (2003), and Lunsford and Lunsford (2008).