September 16, 2006

Why good writing is so important

Next week I'll be talking about blogging to a lot of people, some in seminars where my points are clear, others on elevators where, in 20 seconds, they just don't get "why anyone would want to read what they have to say". When someone says that I realise that they may never be any good at blogging.

Because so much of what we try to express, whether relevant, interesting, irrelevant or boring can be made palatable by good writing.

Hdlines This minirant comes after seeing a BBC headline this morning:
Woman charged with murdering man

Here is an example of a headline (or potentially a blog post, since it came through the RSS reader) that unintentionally aroused my interest with its interesting possibilities.

  • Did a woman murder a man?
  • Did a woman get charged by the police because she happened to be standing next to a murdering man (ooh, the injustice)?
  • Did a woman and a man, the latter having just murdered someone, charge down a street or into a constable?
  • Did two murderers, a man and a woman, get charged?

The possibilities from Aunty's headline are endless, and could make a wonderful English writing exercise for someone out there. On the other hand, they show how important your writing is if you want to grab people's attention in the blogosphere. No, people won't just read it because it's there. They'll read it because it's good.

On a similar note, great news from Montrose Academy in the Scottish Borders Angus this weekend where the classroom teacher has seen how kids make 10 times more effort in their spoken German when they know that it'll be podcast and heard by people around the world - but only if it's interesting and entertaining. What's great is that the kids, immersed in media 24/7, are perfectly aware of the standards required and will pull the finger out to make their material interesting and better than it has been before.

The same upturn in attitude I witnessed yesterday when I took nine teenage filmcrew through the headquarters of LT Scotland to get their film brief from four of the main organisers of next week's huge SETT Learning Festival. Until then it had been difficult for the kids to get a handle on why this was more than just mucking about with a camera. I'm sure they thought I was taking it far too seriously as I explained how they could make a great 5 min promo video.

After visiting the huge SECC and Armadillo, and being treated like real filmmakers by the organisers of SETT, their posture straightened, the talk turned more intense and the activity heightened to get that storyboard written. They know this is for real, that thousands of people will watch their film and that it is being used, for real, to sell the festival to next year's audience. They are now wanting to produce a five minute promo, the 10 minute Editors' Cut and a one minute "Alternative Version", going all arty on us. I can't wait to see what this gang come up with.

Audience is crucial to making that quality inherent to students' work. We had the problem - bad writing - and might have found an at least partial solution - large audiences for student work.


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Montrose is in Angus (I think) - not Scottish Borders

Good writing can be a joy in itself. There are instances of blogs (among other forms of written communication) so elegantly or pithily written that it is sheer pleasure to read them - almost regardless of their subject matter. These are the Addisons and the Francis Bacons of our day.

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Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

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School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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