Updated: Dec 30, 2019
Perfectly Penned Arrives!
Several years ago, I began pondering next steps as retiring to leisurely living wasn’t yet in the plan. I’ve had to recreate myself professionally a time or two, and during every iteration I’ve woven threads of excellent spelling, writing, and speaking through rough drafts, presentations, and final educational products. From an elementary school spelling bee win to my invitation to consider majoring in English from a favorite freshman professor, many moments along the way have pointed to exceptional strength in oral and written communication. Even though I chose to study speech pathology and communication disorders, I never forgot the affirming questions of Dr. Foley: “Are you an English major? If not, why not?”
Now could be the perfect time to capitalize! I thought, as What’s next? continued its internal looping. And yes...the pun is intended. (Thank you, Dad.)
I’ve always had a general annoyance whenever I spot misspelled words or poor grammar in any format. Whether books and formal documents or social media profiles and quick texts, I’ve been a master at catching the slip-ups of other professionals. I knew, though, not to offer corrections unless an invitation was extended. Whenever I was asked to give someone’s work a quick “once over”, I’d first be relieved –then delighted – when they appreciated my findings of more than easily-spotted misspellings as well as my suggestions to enhance overall clarity and flow of their work.
My spelling and writing skills were developed years ago through parental modeling and enhanced through strong public school curriculum and instruction. As I reread treasured letters from my father, I always noticed what seemed to be perfection of his command of English.
Following my career as a speech pathologist, I accepted a position as an instructional support teacher and provided academic and social-emotional support for elementary students. A hallmark of that time period was instituting a school-wide spelling program for first through fifth grade students. Weekly lists were created from Rebecca Sitton’s No Excuses Words for mastery at each grade level. Repetitive writing exercises based on these lists incorporated strategies that increased the likelihood of spelling mastery. Grade level appropriate homophones such as to/too/two; your/you’re; and their/there/they’re comprised a portion of each list. (These homophones and many more remain challenging for many adults today.)
Based on the work of Dr. Nicholas Bountress of Old Dominion University, I created a Formal Language Training Program in a school with a high rate of students lacking in resources – many of generational poverty. The Formal Language Training curriculum facilitated code shifting so that students whose home language was casual could more effectively negotiate the formal language of the school setting. Successful code shifting practices contributed to the fourth and fifth grade levels earning passing scores on their Standards of Learning Writing Assessment for the first time in several years.
In a later prevention career, I was polishing my own capacity to address adult audiences in groups of 5 to 500 at local, state, and national conferences. After my presentations, I always enjoyed reflecting on the impact of pacing, pausing, and volume as I presented novel information to conference audiences. Feedback in conference evaluations consistently emphasized excellent communication skills. I was grateful that this skill had been long-fostered, so I was always able to focus on content and creativity of presentation in my workshops.
I understand and regret that striving for perfection in speech and writing is not considered vital by many professionals who rely daily on quick texts and carelessly crafted emails to advance their business agenda. However, research tells us that at or near the top of the list of desired employee qualities is excellent communication. Carelessness in speech or writing can be a dealbreaker when supervisors consider employees for potential advancement.
Being ever-mindful of my speech and writing to avoid such carelessness, I earned the nickname “The Miss Manners of Grammar” by a longtime friend and excellent communicator. Fully embracing this moniker and wondering how I might lean into it, I envisioned the 21st Century version of an advice column...my own website! Motivated to market impeccable writing and editing skills, I incorporated with the goal of helping people sound smarter to their target audience; thus, Perfectly Penned, LLC was launched on January 1, 2019.
During my first year in business, I’ve edited two books for a former high school peer, Cindy Hunter Roman. Desperate Trek: One Family’s Journey from Honduras to Texas, a work of creative nonfiction, chronicles the courage of a fictionalized family as they endure the very real challenges faced by people making their way closer to what they believe to be safety at the southern border and beyond. Lifetime to Lifetime: A Tale of Rebirth and Spiritual Awakening is a modern fable about a 12-year old boy, Eric, who discovers that he has a mystical gift – a gift that transforms his life and the lives of his family and friends.
After reading John Pavlovitz extensively, I met John Pavlovitz this year and have the opportunity to edit for him when he self-publishes. This work came through persistence and determination on my part and grace and sincere belief in “a bigger table” on John’s. Early 2020 is his target date for handing that work off to me; I’m extremely grateful for this work and look forward to polishing work that profoundly resonates with me.
I’ve also authored a young children’s story to help first children understand the changes they will experience as a new baby arrives home and provide them with a strategy to manage their feelings of frustration, sadness, and anger when they don’t experience the same investment of time from their parents they experienced in the past. This story has not yet been titled or published.
Providing a wide range of editing services for clients managing critical communications, I deliver impeccable written products. Offering training for younger professionals who speak for a living and want to polish their presentations, I’ll render strategic coaching for increased speaker fluency – fluency characterized by appropriate speed, volume, pacing, and reduction of speech fillers such as so, I mean, like, you know, and well and similar empty but distracting syllables.
With your business, satisfaction, and recommendations, I’ll do my best to keep adults of all ages engaged in strengthening their communication skills, modeling strong skills for others, and sounding smarter to those around them.
Thank you for contacting me at Perfectly Penned, LLC–firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to working with you!
Mary Lib Morgan