Does professional writing training or skills development actually work?
Yes! But there’s a major caveat to this answer: not all writing training options are equally effective. In fact, some aren’t effective at all.
First, let’s define what we’re talking about. When organizations want their teams to produce better quality, higher performing written documents, they’ll often provide some form of training so people can brush up and improve their writing skills.
The bad news is that the traditional, old-school approach to professional writing courses is often a bad fit for what organizations actually need to resolve their underlying writing issues. Here, we’re talking about academic-style instruction that covers the ins-and-outs of good grammar and prose. These courses can even go above-and-beyond and still fall short. That is, they can teach higher-order concepts beyond simple grammar rules, including study of business-specific documents such as memos and reports, tackling problems like writer’s block, and learning how to be more persuasive or compelling in writing. That’s important! And it’s still not always enough.
The Challenge for Traditional Professional Writing Courses
The underlying problem is the approach that traditional writing training takes. Fundamentally, they present one-size-fits-all solutions. At a certain level, this makes sense: the rules of good grammar are the same for everyone. You don’t need to customize instruction like that! Or do you?
Imagine you’ve signed up for a course like “Business Writing Made EZ!” that promised to let you in on the secrets of writing masterful emails, memos, reports, and presentations. But what you discover is less than ideal:
- It’s generic, not necessarily because the creators or instructors don’t know what they’re doing, but because their overarching strategy for the course is to appeal to as wide an audience as possible (read: make as much money as possible).
- It’s not based on research; instead, it teaches the same concepts it has for the last 10 years, when research clearly shows that how readers read has changed dramatically.
- It’s poorly targeted, again because it’s trying to appeal to everyone, it can’t possibly hit the mark for anyone. You might get a few gold nuggets from it, but much of it won’t apply to your needs.
- It spends too much time focused on the least common denominator among the students they have had (or hope to have), which wastes time for anyone who has even basic writing skills.
What Your Team Really Needs
If you actually want to solve your team’s writing issues, you need a complete solution, which means more than just a writing course—for long-term improvement, your team needs practice, coaching, and an understanding of your organization’s goals for its writing. This requires consultants who do several different things that stand out from the traditional approach.
- They assess your team’s skill gaps and writing issues. Only by accurately diagnosing your team’s issues can they target a solution so that your team actually improves.
- They incorporate your team’s writing into the workshop. When participants can successfully apply concepts to writing with which they’re familiar, they’ll be much more likely to be able to do so long-term and to a variety of workplace documents.
- They provide one-on-one coaching. Anyone who’s taken a university-level course or been an intern understands the value of coaching. Coaching is crucial to ensure consistency and that your team understands not only how to apply, but why they’re making the decisions they are about the documents they write.
- They take a goal-driven approach. In other words, they understand that every written document has a job to do and training is structured to help writers connect the dots between the writing they’re doing and the achievement of the intended objective.
That last point is important enough it’s worth expanding on. A traditional approach to training doesn’t really think of written documents as a means to an end; it tends to view good writing as an end unto itself. Often, that’s fine! Strong writing skills are generalizable and can be applied every time someone sits down to write.
However, at professional organizations, every document has a goal, and the writing instruction won’t be complete unless and until students understand not just how to write well but also how to write purposefully.
If you want outstanding results, look for professional writing courses that stand out.
Today, businesses have a wide variety of training options available, but they’re not all going to be equally effective. Whatever you do, don’t just choose the first writing course that comes up under a Google search and has halfway decent reviews. All too often, traditional instruction will fall short of what’s truly needed for professional writing that facilitates successful outcomes. Instead, look for writing courses that provide a complete solution and that are better targeted specifically to your needs.
In addition, remember the adage “you get what you pay for.” While there are many inexpensive writing courses available, weigh the cost with the outcome you’re seeking. Well-written documents are the most (and in some cases, the only) important deliverable your organization offers and they must be done right, which may not mean choosing the least expensive solution.
To learn more about professional writing solutions that yield real results, contact Hurley Write for a custom, no-obligation consultation.