The writing class I’d like to teach
Jason Fried

I see this being especially useful for the ‘English as a second+language’ people (but not only). I tought a masters course in English to non-native English-speaking students from different countries (many speaking at least 3 languages) in a digital communications program in France. The course was an introductory content strategy course to help them see there was more to digital communication than just translating web content (translation being a big interest for many of them).

Course evaluations were based on a final one-page essay and 5-minute lightning talk to demonstrate their writing and speaking abilities in English, respectively. At the same time they had to demonstrate how some content strategy topic we covered in the course tied/related with their own academic interest — the comprehension component.

I was continually surprised by how challenging this turned out to be for second-year masters students. Writing was generally wordy and characterized by poor use of grammar/punctuation, and little understanding of English content formatting conventions. With lightning talks, students often kept to the time limit, but suffered with communicating subject matter and main points. Likewise, students struggled to connect their respective interests (SEO, blogging, graphic design, etc) with a greater communications strategy, however weak or strong that connection, as one would ideally need to be able to do in the real world.

If I taught the course again for that particular program, I’d redesign it to just focus on the basics of English writing, and your idea would be a good framework to help exercise out the tendency for fluff and bloat. I’d leave the content strategy stuff for a different course, allowing them to focus on their pet interests as topic scope. I have to wonder where many got their English-language education prior to that program, but I can appreciate how difficult it is to master new languages in writing.

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