Writing Workshops vs. Writing Repair

What do employers really want? Do they want their employees to become better writers? Or do they want company correspondence and documents to be well written? These are not the same. I think employers want the latter. Fortunately, there’s a way to get it without going through the exercise of trying to turn employees into good writers.

Many companies think they can solve the problem by sending employees to a two-hour or two-day workshop. But as they say in the ads for hair restoration creams and diet pills, “your results may vary” – and a lot depends on where you’re starting from.

When an employer needs to know that the correspondence and documents being written by his employees are correct, clear, professional, and effective, he can’t take a chance on the wide range of results that may come from asking his people to attend a workshop or take an online course. Nor can he wait while employees practice their writing lessons, because while they do, his company’s correspondence may still contain mistakes, ambiguities, and ineffective expression of ideas. In a business setting, “better than it used to be” is not an acceptable alternative to “good.”

I want to repeat something I talked about in one of my other posts, “A Workforce that Needs Writing Repair.” Employers today are dealing with an employee pool that has serious problems with writing skills. Two key factors contribute greatly to this: the decline in the educational system, and the fact that so many people come to their jobs with a language background other than English. Whatever the reason, many people simply don’t write well. If they want to get the most out of the skills and experience their employees do have, employers need to address the issue of poor writing. The question is: what’s the best way for a business to do that?

Readers of this blog know that I sometimes use this space to talk about my own consulting business. In that context, here’s a comparison of the workshop approach vs. the ongoing support provided by my “Writing Repair” service.

Using the Workshop Approach

  • Workshops can’t guarantee enough improvement to eliminate all mistakes.
  • Results are not consistent. Some employees may make great progress, some hardly any.
  • Workshops offer methods and tips; but employees, especially those using English as a second language, won’t always know how or when to apply the information.
  • At some point after the workshop, even if a period of follow-up is provided, employees are left to fend for themselves, completely unsupported.
  • Workshops use educational materials created for the course. They may not be relevant to the type of writing being done at the employer’s company. They are certainly not the actual correspondence and documents the employee has to produce in the course of doing his job.

Most important: people’s language habits are deeply ingrained. Past a certain point in life, it’s extremely difficult to change them. Several hours or days of workshop training won’t do it.

Using My Writing Repair Service

  • I see the document, not the writer, as the thing that needs to be “fixed.”
  • I review grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors; clarity; organization of material; and effectiveness of expression, so that the final version is professional and does the job it is intended to do.
  • I am going to make sure the writing is good, even if I have to write the piece myself.
  • I work side by side with people who need writing support. By asking the right questions, I can identify passages that don’t really convey what the writer means, are misleading, or which have the potential to cause misunderstandings. Such passages can cause real damage to a business if they are not caught and revised.
  • I can show a writer how to think about what needs to be written, and to organize his thoughts before they go down on the page. (See my post “When You Can’t Get Started Writing.”)
  • I am there as a continuing resource that employees can call on whenever they need to write something important. Any time an employee doesn’t have the confidence or skills to do it alone, I’ll be there to make it easy.
  • I work directly on the company correspondence and documents, not on made-up exercises. Actual company work is being produced in the process.
  • Company work is correct and professional from the very first day. There is no time lag while employers wait for employees to get better at writing.
  • Although teaching is not my primary purpose, employees do actually become better writers because they can compare their original drafts with our final versions, and because they can ask questions about why certain changes were made.

Does “Writing Repair” cost more than a workshop? Maybe. You pay for the workshop once. You pay for me every month. From the most important point of view, however, it doesn’t matter which one is more expensive…

…because there’s nothing cost effective about choosing a cheaper solution, if it doesn’t do what you want it to.

*****

Could your business use my services?

Visit my website at www.jlrco.com or e-mail me at rose@jlrco.com.

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9 Comments

  1. In the manufacturing sector and engineering fields, on hand technical support is very valuable. But it is also more expensive than on call technical support. If there is a design problem or a equipment fault, it solves a lot of problems to have the engineers On Site, to fix it, now. Without delays and waiting and whatever.

    Your way seems very similar.

  2. Hi Ymarsakar: On-site (face-to-face) service is great, and I always try to schedule some regular hours at the employer’s office. For certain kinds of complex writing tasks, it’s definitely the best way. But since we’re working with words, often communication through e-mails and phones works just as well. So I use a combination of on-site and off-site service.  I imagine that for manufacturing and engineering problems, having continuous support on-site is the gold standard. But it would be too expensive (and not necessary) for me to spend 40 hours a week at a client’s office, just in case somebody needed writing support. Once I’m under contract to a company, people can contact me as the need comes up, and we can decide on the most effective way to work on the writing.

  3. Good idea, assuming the employer can tell the difference between good and bad writing.

  4. Hi Vance: Sometimes that’s a problem.

  5. [...] Writing Workshops vs. Writing Repair (From management’s perspective, workshops may be a step toward solving an employee’s problem, but they don’t solve yours) [...]

  6. As a teacher, I have to disagree. While writing revision may help that one piece, what happens with the next piece. Writing workshop is a way for writers to learn the techniques needed for any piece. It may take longer, but it is more effective in the long run.

    • I’m looking at this from the employer’s point of view. There’s nothing wrong with any individual trying to improve writing skills. In fact, there’s everything right with it. But you and I both know it takes time and requires dedication. Not all employees will achieve excellence. I see my service as compatible with continuing education. Education takes care of the future and strengthens the abilities of the individual; Writing Repair takes care of immediate business needs and strengthens the company as a whole. We’re not in disagreement, just tackling different issues.

  7. i rarely reply in blogs, but there is a few that i follow a lot.
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