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Poor spelling doesn’t equal inferior intelligence, but it does require a Plan B

After a recent conversation with a Facebook pal about her spelling challenges, I was reminded of this voicemail I received from a client a few years back:

Hi, Laura. It’s Elizabeth. I really hope I caught you in time. You know that article I sent you to edit? Don’t open it! I mean, I hope you didn’t look at it yet. I just reread it, and realized it’s terrible. I need to rework it. I’ll see what I can do with it later this afternoon, and send you my improved version tonight or tomorrow. Thanks.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth never sent me the revision.

Funny thing about writing: many people have absolutely ZERO confidence in their ability to do it. What they often fail to realize is that they are much more skilled than they give themselves credit for. And for those whose ability is less than stellar, that’s the whole reason editors have jobs, isn’t it?

What I’d like to convince my client, Elizabeth — and everyone else out there who feels similarly — is that there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about with regard to their writing skills. No matter how bad the spelling or how egregious the grammar errors, none of that is representative of how smart she is; nor does it diminish the importance of the information she wants to share with her audience.

In a 2000 Suite101.com article, “What Does Your Spelling Say About You Behind Your Back?” Sandra Linville references Marilyn Vos Savant’s book, The Art of Spelling: The Madness and the Method. Vos Savant wrote her book after conducting a 1998 survey in her Parade Magazine column, in which she asked, “What does your spelling really say about you? Is spelling ability a measure of your education, intelligence, desire, or none of the above?”

In her article, Linville explains, “The survey garnered more than 42,000 responses, indicating that better organizational skills benefit spelling ability, rather than intelligence. However, Vos Savant realizes that inept spellers can look inept in other ways. A misspelled word can kill a job offer or result in a rejected proposal. She also states that an English-speaking perfect speller doesn’t exist.”

Corresponding with Vos Savant’s theory, it is widely reputed that Albert Einstein, the unquestionable genius physicist, was so bad at spelling that he was initially assumed to be retarded. In fact, according to the 1998 ScienceGoGo.com article, “Ten Obscure Factoids Concerning Albert Einstein,” Factoid #3 is:

He Was a Rotten Speller. Although he lived for many years in the United States and was fully bilingual, Einstein claimed never to be able to write in English because of “the treacherous spelling.” He never lost his distinctive German accent either, summed up by his catch-phrase “I vill a little t’ink.”

Some now purport that Einstein struggled with dyslexia, a learning disorder that impairs a person’s fluency or comprehension accuracy. However, this claim is only speculative. Nevertheless, spelling is only one of several serious difficulties facing people with dyslexia.

According to Dyslexia-Parent.com, there are four main challenges for a dyslexic person:

1. Spelling
2. Sentence punctuation
3. Handwriting
4. Sequencing ideas

In such a case, lack of intelligence clearly is not the issue for a challenged speller.

There is also the distinction to be made between poor cognitive spelling skills and never having learned to do it properly. As Philip Hensher writes in the UK’s The Independent:

Spelling may, in the end, not be a very reliable indicator of intelligence, and it is certainly possible to imagine very intelligent and articulate people who lack the skill. But society has agreed that it is significant, and there is no doubt that people, at some point in their lives, will be judged partly on the basis of whether they can spell or not. It is simply the job of education to teach that skill, and it is incredible to hear professional teachers sneering at the notion.

I fear that this attitude is not all that unusual, however. A couple of years ago, I agreed to teach a residential course for sixth-formers who were interested in becoming journalists. They were from a disadvantaged part of London, but I would say they were intrinsically bright and capable. I set some written work: it arrived: I held my head in horror. Not one of them was capable of writing 20 words without making a mistake in spelling, and sometimes an elementary one.

The point here is not that they lacked ability, but that their education had never impressed on them the importance of accuracy. It seemed perfectly plausible to them, and to their teachers, that native ability and enthusiasm would be enough to qualify them to write prose for a living. The idea that accuracy might be needed had literally never occurred to them.

One interesting yet seldom-mentioned fact is the converse of this idea that poor spelling is an indication of inferior intelligence, that is, good spelling is NOT necessarily an indication of intelligence. A person may have strong memorization and/or language skills without possessing comprehensive intelligence across all subjects.

Beyond spelling, another consideration is the fact that not all of us are inherently strong in verbal/linguistic skills. Renowned social scientist Howard Gardner developed a model known as multiple intelligences, meaning that although each of us has many ways in which we learn and perceive information, we generally have one primary area where we excel. The eight intelligences Gardner identified are: Verbal/Linguistic, Logical/Mathematical, Visual/Spatial, Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, Bodily/Kinesthetic, Musical/Rhythmic, and Naturalistic.

Although verbal and linguistic may be perceived as the most commonly emphasized of the eight intelligences, there are seven other skill sets at which a person may excel. Verbal/linguistic may be my personal strengths, but just ask my niece about my fiasco as a sub, teaching math to her 6th grade Montessori class.

What it comes down to is this: in business in particular, heighten and hone your natural skills and leverage them as far as you can – but HIRE OUT your weaknesses. Don’t worry that you don’t do it well as you hand over the project to your outsourcee – that’s why you’re hiring them!

My client who said she needed to rewrite her article before she sent it to me reminded me of those people who feel they have to clean their houses before the housekeeper arrives. That one also baffles me. Rather than focus on her imperfections, I wish she could celebrate her wisdom in reaching out for help. If we could all just get past our shame about our deficiencies and instead focus on the things we do well, life would be so much easier.

Laura

Originally posted on March 31, 2007 as “There’s No Shame in Being a Bad Speller/Poor Grammarian” on the blog Communication Made Easy, by Marcie Brock creator, Laura Orsini.

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Author Amara Charles capitalizes on 2 innovative opportunities – and you can, too!

Outside the box. Creative. Innovative. Whichever word you use, when it comes to marketing, if you’re doing something new and different, you’re probably reaching a new segment of your market. The way to do this? Always be on the lookout for new opportunities.

One of the few PG13 pics we could show from Amara's Ignite Phoenix After Hours presentation!

My client, Amara Charles, is the author of the lovely forthcoming book on sacred sexuality, The Sexual Practices of Quodoushka. In advance of the book’s September 27 release, we took advantage of a couple of great opportunities this past week. The first is an event known as Ignite Phoenix After Hours. The format is a group of presenters, each giving a different 5-minute talk accompanied by 20 PPT slides, each slide timed for exactly 15 seconds. The after-hours nature of this 21-and-over show made it the perfect vehicle for Amara to share her content with a new audience, so I submitted her pitch (Sexual Anatomy Types: Are You a Pit Bull Man or Antelope Woman?) with a great description, and she was selected as one of the 14 presenters! It was a hoot!

Then, we thought we should make the most of this opportunity to promote both the Ignite Phoenix After Hours event and Amara’s book … so the day before Ignite Phoenix, we scheduled a Facebook Author Discussion with Amara. In just 2 days’ time, we had more than 30 people indicate an interest, and on the day of the chat, we had about a dozen folks “listening” in, with a handful who were brave enough to submit questions.

Below is a brief excerpt from the Facebook chat:

AMARA:   Okay, the word Quodoushka (kwuh-DOE-shka) means the coming together of two energies, in such a way that the energy created is more than the sum of the two parts.

LAURA:    I think we’ve all heard that before – the sum of the parts is greater than the individual components…

AMARA:   I wrote the book after sharing these amazing teachings for over twenty years around the world. I have seen these amazing teachings transform the intimate lives of so many people around the world.

LAURA:    Amara – what is the biggest gift people receive when they learn these teachings?

AMARA:   Well, one of the biggest gifts is that people get to experience and truly feel that their sexuality is healthy, natural and good. They reconnect with their sexiness on a deep level and realize we can indeed learn through pleasure!

LAURA:    Awesome! So tomorrow night, you’re doing something unusual – giving a slide show presentation as part of Ignite Phoenix After Hours. What will you be sharing with the crowd at Axis Radius?

AMARA:   Yes, I am presenting on Sexual Anatomy Types: Are You a Pit Bull Man or Antelope Woman?

LAURA:    And if anyone’s still interested in tickets – you can try Twitter. Use the hashtag #ipah. I saw several people with extra tickets this morning…

LAURA:    OK, let’s open things up to the audience for their questions.

SHYENA:  How does looking at what created me (my sexuality) help me deal with emotionally turbulent relationships?

AMARA:   In answer to Shyena’s question: When we get back in touch with what created us, our sexual soul force energy, it brings us face to face with the most powerful energy in the world. When we feel that our sexual energy is natural, and we understand how to use it in beauty, then our relationships become more intimate, more tender and way more passionate.

LAURA:    That’s very powerful – very primal. What an amazing concept, that our sexual energy is the most powerful energy in the world! Makes you wonder why we’re so often taught to run from it or hide it or find shame in it.

Now is Ignite Phoenix built as a platform for promoting a book? Of course not! The goal is to create a dynamic presentation on a topic you’re passionate about. Is Amara passionate about the 9 different female and male anatomy types? You bet! Did she give an outrageous presentation that had even the ladies serving the pizza stopping to watch? She did! Did it serve to help get the word out about her new book? Absolutely!

Here’s your takeaway from our experience: be on the lookout for interesting, appropriate new ways to market YOUR book. One of my Facebook author friends recently did a book signing at a hair salon in Phoenix, because her book is a murder mystery set in a hair salon! Where can you go? Whom can you approach? Which venues will allow you to give presentations and signings and workshops?

Put on your book marketing hat and get creative!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Please email Amara if you’d like more information about her book launch or a copy of the full Facebook Author Chat transcription. Also SAVE THE DATE of September 27 for the Virtual Launch Party. Register here.

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“Am I tough enough to succeed in the cut-throat business world?”

I was on a Webinar today where I missed the audio because of a simultaneous client call. One quick line flashed across the screen, though: “Create a competitor wall when trying to close new business.” Hmm … what exactly is a competitor wall?

Now I’m not sure MY presenter had the same thing in mind, but a search on the Google lead me to the concept of a poster you hang on an actual wall with all your competitors on it: their branding, logos, missions, clients … you get the picture. Every detail you can unearth about who your competitors are and how they distinguish themselves from each other and from you.

Here’s an interesting segment from an article titled “Never Stop Looking Over Your Shoulder,” about keeping tabs on your competitors:

When you find something [your competitors are doing that] you can do easily, that’s great. But be really interested when you find something that would be hard to do. It might be hard because of technical or practical difficulties. Or hard to do because it would destroy businesses (or revenue) that you already have. But that’s what makes it attractive as a strategy. It won’t be easy for the competition either. 

The point of this – and all the other talk of competition? To motivate you to stop at nothing to climb over those competitors, conquer them, and land the next client. This idea might really be resonating with some of you. Other than that single passage, the concept didn’t resonate with me … at all. In fact, in not resonating with me, it led me a direction I don’t usually travel … to wonder if I’ve really got what it takes to succeed in business, because I have NEVER resonated with that message of “Conquer your competitors before they conquer you!”

Here’s my problem with belief in competitors: it comes from a place of lack. This whole idea of competition stems from the belief that there is a finite amount of business to be had, and if I don’t CONQUER the others in my industry, they will TAKE something from me. I have always believed that we live in an abundant universe, which means there is more than enough for all of us. The challenge in the business/marketing world is that this puts me at odds with the “never stop looking over your shoulder” mentality.

I’ll admit my way is NOT for everyone. But it’s the only thing that works for ME. And that’s what I encourage you to do – find the way that works for YOU. We can have all the clever names (SBM/Savvy Book Marketer) and cute cartoons in the world … but at the end of the day, the only marketing that will work for you is marketing that works for you.

If I tell you to blog, blog, blog, but you can’t/won’t/don’t blog – for whatever reason – blogging is not going to work for you. Video works great for some people/businesses; others never get it off the ground. Find the marketing strategies that work for your book, and use them to your best advantage. Please note the word strategIES. As we’ve mentioned in the past, a diffuse approach really works best, because certain segments of your market will respond better to certain marketing approaches, while other segments will be more aligned with something else altogether. Underneath it all, though, your marketing plan has to work for you.

So, in answer to my own question, it’s not about being too nice or too tough. It’s about being focused, committed, strategic, action-oriented, and comfortable in your own skin. I may look around regularly to see what others in my industry are doing – both to learn from them and to take note of where I fall in the offerings, but I will never take the anxiety-prone approach of always looking over my shoulder to see who’s gaining on me. I’ve got too many things in front of me that need my attention.

Happy marketing!

Laura

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Start with ONE book marketing strategy, and BE DILIGENT about it!

(Please click on image to enlarge.)

In our last post, we reenforced the understanding that becoming an SBM* is neither terribly complicated nor difficult. What it requires is creativity, strategy, and a significant commitment of time and energy. Book marketing strategies are probably as plentiful as the authors who employ them. Your goal should be to determine ONE strategy to begin with email, social media, postcards, newsletter, phone calls, networking and be faithful and diligent about it.

First, choose the strategy that makes the most sense to you. If you already have a sizable mailing list, an e-mail drip campaign might make sense. If you’ve got a good-sized social network, you may want to begin there. If you are building your platform from the ground up, a blog may be the best place to start.

Next, create a schedule and stick to it. Blog three days a week. Create a weekly e-mail drip campaign. Join two networking groups and attend every meeting faithfully and then follow up religiously. Begin with ONE strategy, and master it. Then explore which strategy will best compliment your current effort and add another one, and do that regularly. And so on…  But start with one – the key word there being START!

See you Thursday!

MARCIE

*Savvy Book Marketer

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Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

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PREVIOUS POSTS

Thursday, June 23 – INTERESTED or COMMITTED – What’s the difference when it comes to book marketing?

Monday, June 20 – Take a page from the Boy Scouts: Always be PREPARED!

Thursday, June 16 Are you using the 80/20 RULE when it comes to marketing your books?

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