The Write Stuff: Business Writing Workshops in Adelaide
Seeing a ‘there’ where a ‘their’ or a ‘they’re’ should be makes my teeth itch. The greengrocer who sells advocados and brocolli will set them on edge, but I’m trying. It was actually Stephen Fry’s animated essay on language that set me on the road to recovery in my battle against my own judgemental ways. My journey on Twitter has placed me in the company of such wonderful people that I would be undeserving of their support and friendship should I choose to pick up on every misplaced apostrophe, every to that wants an extra o or every loose that needs to lose one. But then a newsletter arrived from my daughter’s school containing two simple, but gratingly obvious apostrophe crimes, and I realised that I could easily overlook casual errors, provided I knew one understood the correct way in the first place. Especially in a professional setting.
Fittingly it was Stephen Fry who shot “The Write Stuff” creator and workshop facilitator Shaun McNicholas to internet stardom by tweeting a link to his now famed Apostrophe Song on YouTube.
Although the premise of Fry’s essay somewhat clashes with the song in that it suggests we should embrace the joy of using and experiencing language in our day to day lives rather than revel in mockery and judgment of the efforts of others, it does outline an important point. Not just the catchy “don’t put an apostrophe in its unless you mean it is”, but a broader one that points to the reality of our professional and social environment and the expectations that are placed on us in how we interact with one another in words and writing.
We write now more than ever. We are exposed to masses of information that often require a written response. Those of us with a tertiary education would know that a university student is frequently asked to churn out thousands of words in an essay or report, but what then, of the skill of brevity? Are we trained to communicate succinctly, engage with clarity and precision in this time-poor world? Can we do this in 300 words? 100? How about 140 characters? Employees are now asked to communicate in countless ways on countless platforms. From formal reports and reviews, to emails, memos and minutes, to Twitter notifications and Facebook updates, communication using the written word is an inescapable part of our daily lives and the truth is, not everyone is comfortable with it.
The Write Stuff is a writing course designed specifically with business in mind; a one day workshop that caters to anyone who wants to increase their writing confidence, improve their style and generally engage more effectively with their audience.
McNicholas’ interest in music, evidenced both in his Apostrophe Song and in the development of a musically creative educational CD called “Cool English”, is highlighted in the venue choice and setting at the Holden Street Theatres in Hindmarsh.
Seated at stage level on round tables, the cabaret-style setting is a welcome change to traditional lecture style set ups. At around a dozen participants, the turn out is large enough not to be discomfiting and small enough to get a sense of the variety of expectations that lay in wait.
From local and state government staff to charity workers and small business owners, all needs were represented here. Some were looking to better engage with their customer base, many felt they needed more confidence in their writing now faced with a larger than ever workload. Others wanted to refine and improve their basic writing techniques. As for me, mother, amateur arts writer and blogger, any opportunity to sharpen my skills and learn a few new tips and tricks is always welcome. I was particularly interested in the short section on the Active and Passive voice.
Aside from an over-arching tutorial on the construction of a good piece of writing for business consumption, The Write Stuff also focuses on important and informative topics such as modern business writing, grammar, transitional phrases and of course, the all important apostrophe. All these and more are presented in a light hearted, easily digestible format in a friendly, open atmosphere.
A full day’s workshop indoors could normally be quite draining, but McNicholas has woven in breaks in the form of on-topic songs and games. He has gotten the audience interaction balance just right. Understanding the wide ranging demographic he is catering to, McNicholas neither asks too much of the audience in terms of participation, nor does he allow them to sit back and glaze over. The pace is good, the content is made clear and kept on track for the day, and he reads his audience well.
Clearly passionate for training in writing, McNicholas is both professional and approachable. He has distilled what could easily be a two day course into one, finding the core elements of writing for business that are troublesome and overlooked and once understood, make the biggest and most lasting impact. The workshop includes concise, beautifully presented take home materials, supportive and informative follow up emails and invitations to supplemental workshops. Best of all, participants come out with an increased confidence in what I happen to think is one of the best gifts we can give to each other: communication.