A client asked me this week for suggested resources to hone her writing skills. The first thing I noted is that writing is different than editing. They are two different skills. Some people are better at one or the other, but typically not both.

I, for example, thrill to editing more than writing. It’s probably one reason I don’t write as much here as I should. I prefer to edit. I think I’m better at editing. I am able to help others improve their material. Writing from scratch is something I enjoy less and find easy to put off.

There are different approaches to improving your skills in these areas:

  • Workshops and webinars
  • One-on-one mentoring or learning on the job
  • Community of interest or collaborative team learning

Workshops & Webinars

There are many workshop trainers out there. These are some I actually know and would recommend:

  • Jeff Herrington (www.jeffherrington.com): Jeff does in-house workshops and the rare public workshop. Jeff does address writing for social.
  • Steve Crescenzo and Jim Ylisela’s Write & Rewrite series (www.writeandrewriteblog.com): With Steve on the writing and Jim on the editing, their webinar series is available online for a price. These two also address writing for social.
  • Ken O’Quinn (www.writingwithclarity.com): Ken does in-house and public workshops, plus individual mentoring. His strength is in print, with little focus on writing for social.
  • Melcrum (www.melcrum.com) is just launching some distance learning in this area. While I’m not familiar with the trainer, Melcrum generally does a nice job.

Learning on the Job

While workshops and webinars are useful for learning foundational approaches, the best thing you can do is to just do it – write every day; edit every day. Find a mentor you think is a great writer and/or editor. Ask them to work with you one-on-one. Write something and ask your mentor to review and offer feedback. Edit something and ask the mentor to review and give feedback.

The mentor should explain their thinking for every suggested change. It’s not enough to just see their editing marks. You need rationale. Sometimes, the theory or research behind a change helps you retain the practice.

Sometimes it’s just about starting. My daughter was struggling today with an assignment to write a poem. I explained that sometimes you just have to start writing and as you write the ideas, the form comes to you. Staring at the blank screen or sheet of paper won’t always make the words come. So just write.

Community Learning

The thing I miss the most about working in a corporate job is being able to bounce stuff off other professionals. I still try to do this when I can, but I often find myself engaging in this give and take, back and forth with a like-minded client. Some clients want everything “finished” before I send it. I prefer a collaborative process to get to what is required. I draft a lot of content for clients, mostly training, policy, guidelines and standards documentation. I think extra brains on it always makes it better and editing multiple times is a must.

This collaborative process with a community (even including non-communicators) is a terrific learning opportunity.

In Summary

Communicators don’t generally write the way we learned in grammar school. It’s a different world, with different technology, different purposes driving our writing. We don’t even edit the same way we might have 10 years ago because of technology. So, learning must be constant. But, some learning basics remain the same:

  • Most learn best by doing
  • Most retain more by engaging in dialogue

Above all, understand your purpose. Are you a better writer or editor? Which does your boss or client need you to do most? Now you know what to focus on.