Course #1: Introduction

          Many people never reach their life goals and believe it is due to a lack of ability, skill, or even intelligence. They manufacture a myriad of excuses for economic failures or poor performance in school. My research shows it is more likely your poor writing skills holding you back. I intend to cure that problem forever, so you can achieve your dreams.

          Allow me to share a personal story. About fifteen years ago, I was teaching writing at a small college in New England when I was approached by the administration and asked if I would be willing to help with a difficulty the school was experiencing. The college thrived at several locations, but needed a new director to head one of the campuses that specialized in night classes for adults. It appeared the enrollment was slipping. I agreed to assume the position until a new administrator could be found. It took longer than expected.

          The last thing I ever wanted to do was to be an academic administrator. I was a writer, and marketing education programs was not my forte. Nevertheless, I stuck with it until a director was found. However, it did not take me long to verify that the enrollment was falling off, so I decided to examine the reasons and fix the problem. What I discovered was amazing.

          I began to interview prospective students. Most of them were between 27 and 35 years old, returning to college to further their careers. They fell into three basic categories.

         

          The first group of prospective students enrolled for one semester, took one course, tried their absolute best, and dropped out after receiving mediocre or poor grades. The members of this group never realized the reason for their poor performance in History, Philosophy, or even Science. It was their writing skills.

          The second group did not even bother to enroll. When contacted, they indicated they were not confident in their writing abilities and were afraid to take college courses. When it came to writing, they had zero confidence.

          The third group consisted of students who enrolled so they could keep their jobs, or qualify for promotions and pay raises. They had no choice. They were usually told by employers their lack of written communication skills was holding them back.

          After studying the problem, I developed a course for new students to improve their writing skills, without studying grammar or participating in demeaning remedial programs. Within two semesters, the enrollment at the campus had tripled! How? The students could only guess at the reasons for their failures, fears, and setbacks. I showed them several simple ways to clean up their writing painlessly. I am about to share those methods with you.

          A long time ago, I sat in a grammar school classroom and began the memorization process I hated so much. Force-feeding was an educational tool. It was not good enough to know what a preposition was designed to do. In order for students to be promoted to the fifth grade, they were compelled to memorize prepositions in alphabetical order – about, above, across, after, against, among, around, at, before . . . For left-brainers, it was an obnoxious task. For right-brainers, it was inconceivable. Diagramming sentences and participating in competitive spelling bees was as much a part of life as today’s television sitcoms or video games. The result of such regimentation was a generation of young adults, with good grammatical skills, who often hated the art of writing.

          However, change was in the air. No longer would we browbeat our twenty-first-century children into grammatical submission. Young students, we insisted, should never be subjected to the abusive process of compelled learning. We had entered the age of free expression of thoughts. We invented concepts like creative spelling to protect our children against the pressure to learn. As they would mature, youngsters would certainly learn the correct way – eventually. Well, eventually is here, and if you have not yet acquired decent writing skills by virtue of the aging process, the simple methods presented here are for you.

          Frankly, in contemporary American society, older students and adults realize no one “picks it up over time.” We have sold a generation or two a bill of goods disguised as self-esteem. Many adults, to their dismay, too late become cognizant of their shortcomings in written communication skills. Their careers often suffer, and they are not sure why. They do not realize the rules of the game were hidden from them so they could feel good about themselves. Now, as young adults and mature adults, they feel inferior as writers. They believe they are not naturally good at the art of writing. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The tips outlined in this course are designed to prove this point.

          The modern education system in the U.S.A. and throughout much of the world does not resemble the system of the past. Notice, I did not say it is bad. I said it does not resemble the same system that educated our grandparents. In the old days, students were forced to learn material by memorizing lists, concepts, formulas, and information. That worked well, if you could memorize easily. Many could not and were retained until they could. Every child feared being left-back. Changes were badly needed, but it appears they threw the baby out with the bathwater. Not only did the system change the bad stuff, but it removed the good stuff as well.

          As a result, schools no longer emphasize the basics of grammar. The new focus is on making all young people feel good and confident inside. Diagramming sentences is a lost art. Spelling bees are deemed traumatic, so children rely on spell check and creative spelling to communicate in written form. Students no longer learn to distinguish a gerund from an adjective. The result is that a large percentage of adults today who feel good about themselves cannot write adequately.

          We cannot send twenty-first-century high school and college students or young working adults back to grammar school. Nor is it necessary. Adherence to a few basic concepts of writing can dramatically alter one’s writing skills for the better. As a college writing instructor for many years, I have seen the same errors thousands of times in papers written by day students and continuing education students alike. This course is designed to eradicate those common mistakes, where nature has not done so through the aging process.

          Today, it is common to be fifteen, thirty, forty, fifty, or eighty years old and to believe the writing gods have doomed you to a life of bad communication skills. It is awful and unnecessary for you to see progress hampered, without realizing poor writing skills might be preventing your success. The purpose of this course is to clean up your writing, no matter what skill level you currently enjoy – or don’t enjoy. Rapid improvement is easy.

           Suppose I asked you to think of a world-class golfer. You might remember Arnold or Jack, or you might be a big fan of Phil or Tiger. Now imagine sending a pro golfer onto the tee with a broomstick instead of a golf club. Ridiculous? Well, on a daily basis, you might actually be demonstrating a similar inability to write, merely because you are using the wrong tools. With a few simple techniques at your disposal, the art of writing will become a natural process. It is my sincere hope this mini grammar course will elevate you to the top of your game.

          Recently, my wife was teaching a college class and noticed that one of her students possessed particularly poor writing skills. What shocked her was the fact that the student was a teacher! When she confronted the student, the woman replied, "The level of writing you are talking about is only if you are going for your Masters." Nonsense!

         

          There are basic writing skills that most people possessed fifty years ago, even if they were far from the academic world. Writing is just another form of communication, and if people do not know what you are talking about, you will find it more difficult to negotiate through the maze of life in your quest for success.

          Once again, I am terribly sorry to announce this. Good writing skills do not appear automatically with age. If a hard-working adult still writes poorly, he or she will suffer personally and professionally. To overcome this situation, forgive yourself.

          There is no need to beat yourself up for your poor writing skills. It is probably not your fault. Please recognize two things:

          1. I understand that re-learning grade school or high school grammar is not practical for most teens and adults.

          2. You can clean up many grammatical errors in your writing with a few simple steps.

         

           Here is how to start. Whenever you feel apprehensive about your writing ability, especially if you feel inadequate with respect to your knowledge of technical writing rules, FORGIVE YOURSELF. It is not your fault.