Literacy: A Game Changer

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Literacy: A Game Changer

Introduction

Imagine you could not read this article, traffic signs, books, emails, etc. Imagine you could not write a letter, an email, a text message, or even your own name. Life would not be the same, would it? But if you are literate, the world opens up to you in ways you may not even realize. That, to me, is a game changer.

What Is Literacy?

As defined in the Cambridge Dictionary, literacy[1] in its purest form is “the ability to read and write”. It’s an essential skill for communication between human beings. Early humans used pictographs on cave walls as a form of reading and writing (communicating) to others. This type of communication eventually evolved into written language using pen and paper. One of our most recent forms of communication is computer literacy. We use our phones and computers to talk with others through text messaging, emails, emojis, and so forth.

How Does Illiteracy Affect People?

For people without the ability to read and write, the world can be a tough place and affect them in many ways. Below are a couple of my own real-life examples of how illiteracy can have an effect on others.

✍️ I once taught in a small-town public middle school as a remedial reading teacher; the children in my classes were in 6th, 7th, or 8th grade, but they were only reading at a 1st or 2nd grade level. Each day, they were taken out of their regular classroom and sent to my classroom. That in itself must have been embarrassing for them. Many of them had behavior issues, and as they grew older, it was harder for them to fit in with their classmates.

✍️ One summer I worked as a reading teacher in a youth correctional facility for boys. Imagine how it must have felt to them — at 13-16 years old — to be unable to read at more than a 2nd grade level. They were often disruptive and rude during a reading lesson, even when I tried to bring in material at their level that wasn’t “babyish”. Their literacy did not improve very much, and I have often wondered if some (or most) of them continued to get into trouble after leaving the facility.

📖How Does Literacy Help People?

To help demonstrate how important literacy is, I would like to relate a true story to you. When I was just out of college with a fresh teaching degree in hand, I tutored a third grader in her home for about a year. She didn’t have learning disabilities; instead, she had a dreadful, debilitating disease called EB[2] and could not leave her house due to a high danger of infection.

Despite her condition, this little girl absolutely loved to learn; she loved reading and writing, music, science, and most other subjects. She read at a 6th grade level. Having the ability to read and write kept her connected to the outside world, even though she couldn’t see much of it herself. Literacy, in her case, was essential to her well-being and attitude toward life.

📖Final Thoughts

Based on my experience, I believe that literacy is an important part of our lives. It plays a role in what I do today as a proofreader/editor (and sometimes writer). I can use a universal set of tools (such as grammar, spelling, punctuation) to communicate information so that it makes sense to others when they read it. Isn’t that what literacy is all about?

[1] “literacy.” dictionary.cambridge.org. 2022. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/ (January 10 2022).

[2] EB (its scientific name is epidermolysis bullosa) is an extremely serious genetic skin condition.

 

 

At the Crossroad

At the Crossroad

I’m stopped at the crossroads, don’t know where to turn… — “Crossroads” song by Kathi Reynolds

From 2015 through 2019, I spent a lot of time learning the craft of voice acting. I did this in the evenings, while my days were filled working 40+ hours a week as a Sr. Communications Specialist for a software company. In 2020 (after I retired from this full-time job), I spent my time perfecting website content, learning how to edit audio, getting the right equipment, setting up a sound booth, deciding on a brand and logo, auditioning, doing some voiceover work, networking, and training with a prominent eLearning voice coach (which resulted in an eLearning demo).

The Crossroad Begins

After I finished the eLearning training and had a shiny new demo, I was excited and ready to start marketing myself, so I signed up for a voiceover marketing course. This course sparked the beginning of a crossroad in my career path: it was like a reality check for me. I knew marketing was part of the job, but the AMOUNT of work involved became overwhelming to me. I started feeling anxious in my recording studio. I knew something was wrong and was asking myself: “Why am I feeling so anxious – why aren’t I excited?”

My Wake-Up Call

To move forward, I needed to figure out this anxiety. For two full weeks, I examined what I was feeling and why. My emotions/thoughts ranged from blind determination (“I’m going to do this regardless of how I feel”) to truth (“I like voice acting, but I just don’t want to work this hard in my retirement”) to guilt (“I’ve worked too hard and shouldn’t give up”) to realization (“this just isn’t for me”).

Having always been a singer, I loved being behind the microphone, but I finally admitted to myself that a voiceover career would be a full-time job, which I no longer wanted! Even though I have always been a hard worker, this anxiety was the “real” me sending myself a wake-up call: I didn’t have to see this through; I didn’t have to do this if I was feeling anxious.

The Decision

Taking the time to think about all this finally helped me reach the decision to stop pursuing voice acting and instead freelance as a proofreader and editor. Some who read this may consider me to be a quitter because of this decision. However, I don’t feel like a quitter, because the minute I made this decision, I felt lighter, as if I had thrown a heavy weight off my shoulders. I felt more confident because I knew I was an expert at proofreading/editing and loved doing it. I KNEW in my heart this was the best decision for ME.

How I Felt After My Decision

The best thing about my decision is how I can now pursue other activities – spending time with family and friends, hiking, singing/songwriting (and using my new audio skills to record music), baking, gardening, and recently starting to bike again.

I don’t consider the years spent on voice acting to have been a waste of time. I learned so much. For example, I can now professionally record a song, add my own harmonies to it, edit it, and process the final audio. I’m also thankful and fortunate to have met many wonderful people who helped me along the way – networking people, voice coaches, the audio guy, numerous experts in the business, and amazing entrepreneurs/small business owners.

Are You at a Crossroad?

Knowing I made the right decision is a great feeling. For anyone who is at a crossroad in your life right now and feels like I did, maybe it’s time for you to step back and ask yourself why you are feeling that way. Your “real” self is waiting to be heard. Hear what it is saying to you and, if at all possible, make the right decision for YOU.

And Finally…

I’m off to pursue proofreading and editing work now, which I really love!

Were My Past Jobs a Waste of Time? Absolutely Not!

Were My Past Jobs a Waste of Time? Absolutely Not!

Have you ever taken a job you thought was really pointless because you were between jobs or just starting your job search? Do you feel you didn’t learn anything in some jobs? Over the years, I noticed that even the most pointless job taught me something – whether it was a real skill or a confirmation that I never wanted to work in that type of job again!

Before reading further, allow yourself to think back on your previous jobs (no matter what they were). Now try to think of one thing you may have learned from each of those jobs. I can almost guarantee that you will come up with something for most–if not all–of them!

My experience working within a wide range of employment (see my list below) resulted in the realization that each of these jobs taught me something I eventually used in another job:

🔸 Retail Clerk: I learned how to work with different types of customers.

🔸 Teacher: I learned how to address an audience at the appropriate level, whether it was a sixth grader or a remedial reader.

🔸 Legal Secretary and Word Processing Supervisor: I became adept at computer skills, which were key to becoming a supervisor. As supervisor, I had to work with a team and make informed decisions.

🔸 Technical Writer: I was able to hone my writing, editing, and proofreading skills in an insurance company environment. I learned to work with a team here as well.

🔸 Senior Communications Specialist: I worked in a software company, where I was constantly multi-tasking, working with different personalities, reaching deadlines, writing/proofreading/editing, working with a team, running a charity event, learning new software, and writing to an intended user audience.

The opportunities to work in different kinds of businesses was ideal for understanding their “language” (retail, education, legal, insurance, technical). This gave me the confidence and ability to proofread and edit for a variety of companies.

I can state with absolute certainty that my prior jobs eventually led to my current role as a freelance proofreader/editor, because:

🔸 I can work with different clients.

🔸 My acquired computer skills are wonderful to have in this technological world.

🔸 I know how to work well with others.

🔸 My skills in writing/proofreading/editing are sharpened and professional.

🔸 I am an awesome multi-tasker.

🔸 I know how to meet deadlines.

🔸 I have learned to present a cohesive and concise message to content for a particular business or audience.

My final thoughts to you are this: If you are working in an awful job or feel you are wasting your time where you are, don’t despair! Somewhere down the long road of employment, you may look back and say, “Hey, that job I hated actually helped me reach my career goal!”

 

8 Things to Consider When Writing Business Emails and Proposals

8 Things to Consider When Writing Business Emails and Proposals

There are many times when you, as a business owner, need to write business emails and job proposals. Having been a Communications Specialist for many years, I thought it might be helpful to give you some suggestions to be aware of when crafting your email/proposal. If you are already aware of these suggestions, you can completely ignore this article! This is not a complete list of suggestions, but it should at least get you started on the right path when you need to write something. I hope you find some (or all) of these suggestions useful!

1 – Its/It’s
First on my list are the words its and it’s. I see them misused everywhere, and it drives me absolutely crazy (well, pretty close to crazy). Sadly, it is becoming the norm to use its when it should be it’s, and vice versa. Word alert! These words are not the same.

  • The word it’s is a contraction, meaning that – and this is important to remember – the apostrophe replaces the i. If you are not certain that it’s is the correct spelling, try replacing the apostrophe with an i to see if it is makes sense in the sentence. If it doesn’t make sense, its would be more appropriate. Try it with these two sample sentences: “Its a lovely day for a walk.” “I see that it’s fur is brown.”
  • The word its is a possessive word, such as I saw its tailgate.
  • There is no such word as its’. Never use it!

2 – Name spelling
When addressing an email or proposal to your recipient, always be sure you spell the recipient’s name correctly. I know from experience (“Kathi” is not a popular spelling for this name) that having your name misspelled can be annoying and make you feel discounted, as if the person who sent it does not really care what you think. Double check that name!

3 – Setup/set up/set-up
The different versions of this term are regularly misused. To prevent this, remember the following when using it:

  • Setup is a noun, e.g., What’s the setup for your audio booth?
  • Set up is a verb phrase, e.g., Can you help me set up the audio booth?
  • Set-up is an adjective, e.g., I like your set-up audio booth.

4 – Comma before a conjunction
Imagine you have a sentence composed of two parts connected by a conjunction, such as and, but, although, etc. It is recommended that you place a comma before the conjunction to signify those two separate parts.

For example, in the sentence, I went to the store the other day, and my friend was waiting for me there, the two parts of the sentence (I went to the store the other day and my friend was waiting for me there) can stand alone as separate sentences. You should therefore use a comma before the conjunction (and, in this case).

5 – Utilize/use
Please, I beg you, do not use utilize if at all possible. It’s basically a fancier version of use, and there is really no reason to use it (unless you want to sound fancy in a scientific paper or something).

6 – Consistency
Consistency, consistency, consistency. Did I stress that enough? Please try to be as consistent as possible throughout your email/proposal by using the same font size, font type, capitalization, paragraph spacing, paragraph alignment, etc. It looks very unprofessional if you have a 10 point font in one area and a 14 point font in another, or you use single spacing for one paragraph and double spacing for another. Horrors.

7 – Double words
Double words occur when you use the the same word twice in a row. It can be hard to notice when you have done this (your eye tends to only see one of them), so be vigilant. By the way, did you notice which word I intentionally used twice in the first sentence of this section?

8 – Review your work
You should always, always check your work at least once, preferably twice, before sending it off to your recipient. Look at your spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure to ensure everything is correct. If possible, also have someone else review it for you. It can be hard to pick up your own mistakes!

Summary
There are other suggestions I could have placed in this article, but I would rather not bore you with additional information that could create a 10-page article!

Write on!