Teaching ourselves to teach you better

“We teach best that which we most need to learn.”

Who said that? A stonkingly good writer, pilot and thinker called Richard Bach. More about him later.

Last week we, Ann Sampson and I, ran two writing courses with an aim to increase engagement with content by improving readability. Our students were staff at the SMMT, the motor industry’s trade association, based in Westminster.

In common with many similar bodies, and indeed many companies, the organisation had found a lack of specialist writing skills was having an effect on internal and external communication. In most cases this stems from a lack of confidence and proficiency in the art of rearranging the 26 letters that comprise the alphabet. In our experience correct use of the wee squiggles called punctuation also causes problems.

The result is that even though the outflow of content is consistent and impressive, the number of people who read the material tends to be low.

We are all in the same boat to some extent.

Not only do we fail to present ourselves clearly and effectively in writing, we are all, to a lesser or greater degree, nervous about exposing our words to others.

To combat this we start to use language that we would otherwise eschew (!) to look smarter.

I don’t believe anyone judges us on the basis of our perceived erudition. I think they judge us on whether our writing engages their minds, stimulates their interest and is useful.

What I learned from the courses that we ran is that the language I use is sometimes elitist. And as the good student that I am I shall modify accordingly.

As for Richard Bach, he wrote Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, Illusions: Adventures of a reluctant Messiah and whole host of books about flying. He’s the sort of chap I’d like to be my uncle or grandfather and I’ve learned a great deal from his books.