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Personal Literacy History Prompted by Discussion

Personal Literacy History Prompted by Discussion

Since I was young, I have enjoyed reading and writing. What I didn’t realize until recently is that throughout my childhood, I was on the path to become literate. To me, literacy has changed a great deal since I was young. For example, my family did not have a computer in the house until I was in 7th or 8th grade. I often wrote with pen/pencil and paper, in the confines of my room. It was a private thing for me – I had many journals in which I would write about what happened that day at school or at home. It was more of a release versus a mode of communication (like it is for me today). I remember when my small town finally had internet access (dial-up, but still exciting… ugh, it pains me to say that I was excited about a dial-up internet connection when today I won’t settle for anything less than a super-fast connection) – I would walk just under a quarter of a mile to my aunt’s house and use her internet. I would also go over to use her word processor on her computer – I would create a newsletter, pretend I ran a newspaper and report the local news or anything that was of interest to me. In fact, I remember calling it “Up-to-Date News.” Moving forward through school, I found a special connection with my English classes because we were prompted to write about what we studied. Same for history – those two classes required papers and essays. It continued to be a passion through the rest of my teen years, and now that I’m almost out of my twenties, it’s how I want to make a living. Funny, these recollections… means so much more now that I understand my literacy path.

So, what is literacy? It has always been, to me, the ability to read and write coherently, to communicate effectively, and has been a part of the educational process. I think of my literacy history and then think about it from a global perspective: there are still places around the world that do not have internet connections or even computers… whereas today, in America, it seems the average family has multiple computers, a fast internet connection, and many books, magazines, or newspapers to read every day. And if your home doesn’t have some of these things, there’s a local library you can visit to feed your literate soul.

Thinking about how I became literate… my parents were adamant about encouraging me to read and write. Perhaps their parents were the same way with then, and so on, and so on throughout the family tree. I can look at this from many informational perspectives – historical, sociological, case studies, pictures/graphics, and even family artifacts. History tells me people learn to read and write because they were taught… and those before them were taught, and those before them were taught. It’s evolution to me. We, as humans, learned to communicate through signs, symbols, grunting, etc, since the beginning of our race. We use the past to improve present literacy, looking back and seeing how our ancestors performed basic literate tasks. We have adapted in some ways, and evolved from there. This takes me straight into the assumptions we discussed in class. Learning about literacy involves the changes we want to make and how we want to act on it. I have tried to remove myself and act as a spectator in recent years to how my literacy has evolved. Case in point – I have loved to write with a pencil and paper, and that started as doodling with crayons. Now, I can’t go anywhere without my computer because I use my word processor as my form of writing. I do still enjoy how a pen feels in my hand and how it touches the paper – nothing will, to me, ever replace that feeling. I can just type faster than I can physically write, so I tend to favor the computer over the pencil/paper type of writing.

Another point… we were discussing in my other class about revising as we go while typing a paper. I am absolutely horrible at removing the internal editor. I find myself constantly editing as I go when typing… but when I write freehand with pen and paper, I don’t edit as I go as much. Going back a little further and thinking about my speech classes during my early years as an undergraduate, I found myself writing freehand my ideas for my speech, then going and typing them up. That’s when the editing would come into play – while I was rehearsing the speech, I would notice myself changing what I wrote down freehand because I could better organize it on the computer. Or, I would consider how I speak compared to how I write (informal versus formal), and then change the direction of my speech to either formalize or take it down a peg so others could relate to the topic.

My literacy is still changing and evolving. I can personally attest to the statement we made in class – “being literate helps create membership” – I find myself drawn to those who read and write every day, and create conversation based on what we write about. This is one reason I love being back in school – I’m surrounded by individuals who love to read and write as much as I do, and we tend to look at the reasons from historical, sociological, philosophical, and political perspectives. Intellectually speaking, literacy has completely changed me as a person – I have to ask myself: “where would I be without literacy?” I may never answer this, and to be honest, I don’t want to. I’m glad I was brought up in a literate household and was pointed in that direction.

We were given some questions to answer following  one of our class discussions – they are listed below.

  • Given our discussions in class or what we’ve learned about ourselves as a literate person, what areas would I like to spend more time investigating? I would like to look at my life as a literate person from the historical and sociological perspectives, and weave the readings/discussions in to back up my personal evidence that says I am a literate person. I would also like to look into the literacy rates of sex offenders specifically – the topic of sex offender rights (or lack thereof) has been a great interest for the last few years.
  • What do I know about literacy now that I did I not know about literacy before I walked into class tonight? The differences of literacy history between classmates – we all have similar beginnings, but every single person is different and their backgrounds are varied.

  • What do I know about literacy now that I did I not know about literacy when I walked into class the first night? I had the undergraduate course for writing and literacy a few years ago, so I assumed I would have a good jumping off point for when I walked into this class. I’m noticing that I was not as critical when it came to studying literacy – I’m beginning to see the elements of thought as real-life application and can apply it to literacy studies now a lot better than what I ever could before.
The Power of Proofreading

The Power of Proofreading

It’s no secret: I have always enjoyed writing. During the past few years, I’ve discovered I have a knack for professional and technical writing. I know, it seems kind of boring at the surface… but I love it. I enjoy creating how-to guides, drafting emails to colleagues, and editing/revising professional documents to make sure they are as clear and concise as possible.

During my undergraduate studies, the course I completed have helped me improve my craft tremendously, and I still use many of those practices I learned in the classroom today. This includes how to draft letters and emails to clients  and colleagues, as well as how to communicate clearly with other professionals.

From my experience as a writing tutor, I realize writing is not a strong point for everyone. That’s OK – that’s why I’m here. :) In all seriousness though, I have one tip that can save you when communicating through writing.

PROOFREAD.

It is absolutely necessary to proofread your messages before sending. Start to think about what you want to say and how you want to say it… before the words come out. When it comes to communication through written documents or over the internet, you have the upper hand. Take the time to proofread your message. I promise it will save you time and embarrassment in the future.

I cringe when I receive an email with bad grammar and spelling mistakes. Well, I cringe when I see bad grammar and spelling mistakes in general. I feel that to get your point across and be respected, there is little to no room for errors when communicating with colleagues. Now, I’m not saying I’ve never made a mistake and sent something without proofreading… but when I have, I learned my lesson almost immediately.

Before I send out any email to a client or colleague, I proofread it once or twice. I can guarantee you I catch something every single time I give it another look. I search for spelling and grammatical errors. Sometimes to double-check myself, I even paste the draft into MS Word to run a spell check if my mail client doesn’t offer the service. I get embarrassed when I send an email to someone and it has errors throughout the draft. When I receive an email like that, I won’t lie to you… I can’t take it seriously. The sender did not want to take the extra time to proofread for mistakes or make sure their message is clearly conveyed.

Don’t be afraid to ask for someone to read over your message.

Always have a fresh pair of eyes look over a document, no matter the length. Even if you are an expert writer, I guarantee you will miss something if you don’t take the time to proofread or have someone else double-check your work for you. In my last job, my co-worker and I would read emails out loud to one another to make sure we a) sounded clear and concise and b) found any/all errors. Granted, this doesn’t help catch spelling errors, but that is what the second pair of eyes (and spell check) is for.

Another scenario: the company I used to work for added another fellow English major to our staff, so we had two in-house writers with proofreading skills. The marketing department would constantly rely on both of us to proofread documents for errors before it was published. Also, we could use each other as a fresh pair of eyes. Every single time we read each other’s work, we would find something the other didn’t find before. See, even two English majors made mistakes – but we were there for each other to correct them before anyone else read the material.

When in doubt, Google it.

I do understand that grammar and spelling may not be a strong skill many people have – but with the internet, I don’t believe anyone can use that as an excuse. Even I use Google to double-check myself on occasion. Chances are if you have a question, someone else does too, and they’ve gone on the internet to find the answer. The internet is a wealth of knowledge, so don’t be afraid to use it.

I am a huge advocate for using the internet to do everything. Shopping, connecting, communicating, writing, researching… you can do virtually anything on the internet. So, when you’re having trouble getting the spelling right or you’re not sure if you’re using a word in the correct form, open up your browser and head to Google.

The moral of the story: always, always, always remember to proofread.

Read over your email a few times before you send it. You might find a spelling error or that you can better phrase a sentence. If it makes you feel better, just remember that even the best writers make mistakes. If you need some help, feel free to contact me. I can guide you along the way and be that second pair of eyes you know you will need sooner later. Good luck!

Write a Stellar Résumé

Write a Stellar Résumé

Résumés. We all need them for one reason or another. Whether you have found a wonderful job and have no intention to leave, or you are looking for a career change, it is always a good idea to keep your résumé fresh and up-to-date. Websites like LinkedIn make it easy to maintain your professional experience while allowing you to highlight your skills, display recommendations, and much more… but it’s simply not enough. I believe you must have your résumé in tip-top shape if another opportunity should arise.

I have rebuilt my résumé several times to cater to specific positions, and that goes for cover letters as well. Since I have helped others for a while now, I figured I would post some quick tips for building a stellar résumé.

The most important tip… Follow the ‘KISS’ rule – Keep it Sweet and Simple. General rules apply here:

  • Stick to one page
  • Don’t go overboard with fancy fonts
  • Highlight your best features
  • Cater to the position

1. Stick to one page. You should assume employers do not have the time to shuffle through pages and pages of information about you. If you lay out everything about your professional history on your résumé, what have you left to talk about in the interview?

2. Don’t use more than 2 fonts. Also, keep these fonts simple. Go with Times New Roman, Calibri, Helvetica, and others that are similar. For examples of fonts you should not use, click here.  Some might say you can get away with using 3 fonts, but I think it’s only acceptable to do so if you have a custom header. For example, in the past I have used a letterhead with a different font than what is on the rest of the résumé. I have since thrown that out because I felt it wasn’t simple enough. You don’t want to overwhelm the reader, or even confuse them. Just because you think it may look pretty, doesn’t mean the employer will.

3. Highlighting your best features is key. You want to show the employer immediately that you are the best fit for the job based on your previous experience. I suggest reading over the job qualifications and using those as a starting point. Let’s say they need applicants to have experience in customer service and management and computer skills. You will want to highlight your expertise with computer operating systems, specific programs (such as Microsoft Word and various Adobe products) and your ability to work as a team player and lead others.

4. Cater to the position for which you are applying. There is some wiggle room here. I have friends who are in creative industries (films, music, etc.) who have interactive resumes. These are awesome, but wouldn’t fly for an office assistant position. It’s simple – if you are searching for a job that allows you to show your creative side, take the risk and make your résumé colorful. If you are looking to work in a professional office setting, it might be best to play it safe and keep it simple.

Other Tips

The traditional “Objective” line is starting to disappear, but is still very acceptable on a résumé. Profile summaries are becoming popular – this gives you a chance to brag about yourself before the employer gets to your history. Here is my basic profile summary:

Profile

Exceptionally skilled editor and writer with experience in editing and publishing, as well as content and copywriting. Knowledgeable with current computer and Internet technology, as well as social media experience. Indiana University graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in English (Writing & Literacy), with the intent to pursue a Master’s degree in English. Fast learner and highly adaptable. Experienced communicator and team player.

I change my summary to cater to each position. If I am sending this off for a writer/editor position, I would probably add “excellent proofreading and editorial skills” or change my first line to “Exceptionally skilled writer with training in the editing and publishing field, as well as experience writing content and copy.” How you spin it is what catches an employer’s eye.

ALWAYS PROOFREAD BEFORE SENDING!

I can’t stress this enough. In the past, I have caught myself almost sending a résumé with a typo or incorrect grammar. Save yourself the embarrassment and proofread! You can never look over your résumé enough, and it always helps to have a second, third, or even fourth pair of eyes take a glance as well. I know people who have submitted a résumé after proofreading, but still did not catch every error. I have been guilty of that – but I learned from it immediately. Do not be afraid to ask for help. If you need a proofreader and don’t want to be judged, I’m your girl. Send it my way and I’ll be glad to help you!

Do Not…

  • Rely on a résumé wizard. You are better off looking at examples of other résumés and formatting yours on your own.
  • Talk salary, reveal your gender, age, marital status, hobbies, etc. It is simply unprofessional.
  • Add references. If an employer wants them, he or she will ask for them.
  • Focus on gaps in employment history. An interested employer will ask you about them if they are curious, and people understand there are reasons (especially in the last few years) why you have been unemployed. Just be ready to talk about it in the interview.

Click here to read some examples of what not to write… and yes, these people actually put that on their résumé!

Again, there are some jobs out there that do not want you to go the traditional route with your résumé, so don’t be afraid to take the risk. Just trust your gut and ask yourself… would I honestly hire someone with this résumé?

When I have helped others complete or revamp their résumés, they have been successful finding a new position. It’s a tough market out there, so make yourself stand out. I can’t guarantee you will find your dream job, but you can gain a nice head start by having different variations of your résumé ready to send to potential employers. At this point, I think I have at least 5 different variations of mine, and I’m still creating more as I go.

If you need some help, feel free to contact me. I won’t charge you an arm and a leg, but I will offer you some advice should you need it. Don’t forget, I’ll even proofread it for you. Good luck!

(Photo credit: http://www.wornthrough.com)