Better Business Writing – an interview with Ron Denholm

Ron is one of our busiest trainers in our Australia office. He has a background in primary, secondary and tertiary education. He then led Learning and Development in the Australian Federal Police’s Sydneyoffice where he developed and taught Ministerial Writing Courses and edited documents for court. He received a Commissioner’s Commendation for this work. Since 2003, he has been running workshops in efficient business, academic and government writing. Ron invented EssayAudit, an editing program that analyses thinking structures and language in documents. He has a BA and MA both in Classics. He also has a Certificate IV in Workplace Training and Assessment and a Diploma of Teaching.

JMD: ‘From kids to companies’ Could that be your career in a nutshell?

RD: I couldn’t have put it better!

JMD: Thanks Ron. I’m sorry, our time is up.

RD: Hey, that’s one of my favourite training lines and it always gets a laugh!

JMD: That’s important to you?

RD: It definitely is. Training and teaching without regular seamless humour is torture.

JMD: Seamless?

RD: Yes, you have to pick your time to make a joke impact. A workshop is a living, breathing thing where personalities rather than credentials hold sway.

JMD: Having taught primary, secondary, and tertiary students, then corporate clients, puts you in a unique position. Does it influence the way you train?

RD: It does. Kids and adults need to be engaged at their level of understanding before any new learning can happen. You have to earn their trust, then they respect what you’re doing for them. One of the hardest gigs I had was teaching primary school as a casual teacher. One day I’d be entertaining 7 year olds, and the next day 11 year olds. You get pretty efficient at knowing what works because kids come right out and tell you if you’re boring them!

JMD: Did it get easier teaching high school?

RD: Well, I loved teaching ancient history and English and that put the stamp on my style. Students engaged because I was so enthusiastic. But what also kept me in secondary teaching was a fascination with how students learn to write essays, especially measuring the shift from recalling facts to analysing issues.

JMD: So that may segue quite nicely to your EssayAudit invention. Did it all begin when you joined the Federal Police?

RD: EssayAudit draws on Bloom’s Taxonomy to analyse essay technique, which I used in teaching before joining the Federal Police. But I began working on the formula while in the Police. Recruits had to write essays and there was a common thread of poor grammar and poor essay structure. This made me realize the scope of training needed to reduce the rejection rate of Ministerials. So I introduced one day workshops with pre and post testing. Pre course testing was necessary because recruits came from acrossAustraliaand some had not gone to university.

JMD: And you’re now using EssayAudit to assess clients’ needs?

RD: That’s right. It’s the only instant marker that assesses both structure and language.

JMD: Well our clients certainly like it!

RD: That’s good to hear. I’ve also used it in delivering your Minute Taking workshop.

JMD: Yes. That workshop is becoming very popular with executive assistants and personal assistants.

RD: I think one of the main reasons for its popularity is that I use plenty of before and after samples, card games, video and plenty of history. And I shoot home the importance of getting any type of writing right after one edit. It’s as simple as this: the computer has killed off the experts in the ‘typing pool’. You know what I mean? Writers must now become efficient editors. And with an average 35% inefficiency in business, academic and government writing, this keeps me very busy!

JMD: You’re also running our business writing courses. What makes them compelling for delegates?

RD: Delegates immediately see why their writing needs work with our EssayAudit snapshot and how inefficient writing directly impacts profit. Some delegates are shocked when I show them what I call ‘the hidden economy of inefficient writing’. So after that, they’re ready to change! But I save the best result till the end of the day: by how much did each person reduce their sample edits? You can supply them with anecdotal evidence on why change is necessary, but the most tangible proof only comes from each person working on their own writing. That 35% inefficiency simply falls away in one day.

JMD: But how does the workshop change the bigger picture, when delegates go back to the workplace?

RD: That’s a good question. Sure, the workshop is a burst of enthusiasm for change but delegates also hear the good news that management supports and encourages more efficient writing. And that only works when organisations have a style guide and their templates are easy to read and use. Then JMD’s maintenance program kicks in. That program is essential for new employees and retaining corporate knowledge.

JMD: That’s valuable information, Ron. Keep up the good work!

RD: Thanks. I’ll leave you with this little story. There was a PhD student in one of my business writing courses who had spent a frustrating six months trying to edit his work but with no solid direction from his supervisor on how to do it. In the workshop, his EssayAudit snapshot picked up his particular problems and he walked out of the workshop a changed man! He felt so strongly about his previous lack of understanding that he wrote to his Vice Chancellor, strongly suggesting that all students do our one day workshop, since the schools don’t teach essay editing or enough grammar.

Find more details about our Minute Taking training courses Sydney, Australia and our Business Writing training courses Sydney.

Find more details about our Minute Taking training courses London, UK and our Business Writing training courses London.


About jdonbavand

I am a trainer of Microsoft Office, Microsoft Project and Crystal Reports. I have called my blog "If Only I'd Known That...." because I hear it so many times in training sessions. In fact, if only I had a £100 (or 150 Aussie dollars)for every time someone says "If only I'd known that." ....
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