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But I'm Not a Writer!

Nancy White
Last edited: March 2003

In 12th grade, after returning from a year as an exchange student in Brazil, I ran into an interesting stumbling block in honors English. "Nancy, you are a functional illiterate!" That was my teacher's pronouncement. I could master the content, but my writing was sub-par. I don't know why I granted this teacher so much power, but this hung over my head for years. I am simply not a writer, I told myself. And I avoided writing at every turn.

To interact online we are all writers. We may not be poetic, or to the point. We may have sloppy grammar or spelling. Our turn of phrase may be inelegant. But we are communicating with each other through text, so we are all writers. Maybe not Writers with a capital "W." But writing is our most powerful tool.

As online facilitators we must be fluent. We have to be able to sit down at a keyboard and use our fingers to communicate. Like an offline facilitator who has to develop his or her public speaking skills, we have to develop our writing. We must learn to write with as many "voices" as we use offline. Quiet, direct, energetic, reflective -- all of them.

Here are some approaches:

  • Use some basic offline writers tricks to develop fluidity and style such as keeping a daily journal. The point is write something every day.
  • Participate in any online groups that interest you -- maybe something about a hobby or interest area -- and post something every day.
  • Note the style of writers who convey ideas well, or who capture "feeling." Examine their approaches.
  • Ask a buddy to critique your writing.
  • Force yourself to practice different styles and voices.
  • For intercultural groups, practice simple or "Global" English.

Our writing is our voice, our body language. As an instrument to a musician, our writing (along with our technological tools) are our medium for expression.

For further resources see: Facilitating Online Learning : Effective Strategies for Moderators by George Collison, Bonnie Elbaum, Sarah Haavind, Robert Tinker. There is an extensive section on online voice.

Copyright 2003 Nancy White, Full Circle Associates

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