Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Team Writing: a new project for people who want to write well in English... together!

Would you like to improve your writing skills in English, connect with other professionals and raise your profile? Freelancers, bloggers, students and teachers, welcome!

Team Writing: Join us!
Good writing is a both an art and a science. It’s an ability you can be born with – but it’s also a set of techniques that you can learn. Anyone can write: it’s not always easy to say exactly what you mean, but with practice you can get better. It’s also more fun when you do it with other people.

I am starting a project, called Team Writing, which is for people who want to write collaboratively and produce interesting material other people want to read. This is a not-for-profit exercise – you won’t receive any money, but you won’t have to pay anything either. It’s just a group of people who like writing.

Team Writing will take place online and will make use of various different tools for collaboration. The most important part of writing is what you actually do BEFORE you start: organising your ideas and material, finding sources, links and images, etc. We will use collaborative platforms such as Google Docs to share our ideas and resources.

For the actual writing itself I would like people in Team Writing to experiment with different collaborative writing tools. These will allow us to work together on the same text, but they also have several advantages, such as the ability to comment, edit other people’s work, rank or rate material and generally provide an overview of the project and its development over time.

One of the main things about this project is the ongoing discussions that take place around the writing itself and the comments generated by working together. These can sometimes be more instructive and entertaining than the text itself! This will also be a great opportunity to discuss problems and share ideas about writing and expressing yourself clearly.

Finally, we will publish the material we have created collaboratively. The easiest way to do this is by using blogs, which also allow other people to comment on the article or post and share it as well. (We can also use self-publishing platforms such as Slideshare.)

Why should you get involved with Team Writing?

There are a number of reasons why you might want to be part of this project:

·         Improve your English: this will be of interest mainly to learners of English as a foreign language and non-native speakers, but many of the discussions will also be useful for native speakers who need to sharpen their knowledge of how to use English grammar and vocabulary accurately.
·         Develop your skills as a writer: this applies to both native and non-native speakers of English. You are not automatically a better writer because you’re a native speaker. Some of the greatest writers in the English language (e.g. Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov) learnt English as a foreign language but went on to become literary titans. You can always pick up some tips and techniques as a writer. And even professional writers and journalists have editors.
·         Gain experience of working on a collaborative creative project: while most people will just visit the group and stay for a short while, there will eventually be a “core” team of people who spend quite a lot of time and effort working on the material produced by Team Writing. These writers will benefit most from learning to collaborate online and use a wide range of digital tools. The skills and knowledge you gain from working with Team Writing will impact directly on your ability to find paid work outside of the group – e.g. as a copywriter, editor or other job that requires strong writing and editing ability.
·         Networking opportunities: Team Writing will attract people who are interested in developing their network of collaborators and professional contacts. If you work in (or would to like to work in) social media, marketing or any field that requires the ability to co-operate effectively with other creative people, Team Writing will enable you to get to know the other members of the team and to share useful contacts and job opportunities. Team Writing will also make use of business social networking sites such as LinkedIn.
·         Promote yourself as a writer: The best way to show people your ability as a writer is to write for blogs and websites where people can find your work. You may already have your own blog. (If you don’t, start one now – it’s easy!) The members of Team Writing will be able to share and link to the material they have worked on.  Having a series of co-authored articles in your portfolio (and on your blog) will demonstrate to potential employers and clients that you are a serious professional with the ability to collaborate in a team and produce high-quality written material.


Team Writing is not a company or association: it’s just a group of people who like writing. There are no real rules about what you can and can’t do, but as with any group there will tend to be people with more experience and knowledge and others who need to learn and acquire greater skills. The main direction and focus of Team writing will be determined by the people who spend more time and energy on writing the material (as well as supporting, editing and commenting). I imagine that eventually some fairly distinct groups will emerge in Team Writing. These groups will be determined by the interests and ambitions of the people in them. However, I have already thought about some of the topics and themes that writers for Team writing will be interested in. These include:

·         Social media: a group dedicated to writing about social media topics. This will include bloggers and people who are either working in social media or an area that involves using social media tools (e.g. online marketing, public relations, etc)
·         New technology and startups: this group will overlap with social media and the type of material written here will be mainly focused on using technology to improve the way people live and work. We will also look at new and creative ways that people are starting their own companies and funding them (e.g. venture capital).
·         English language learning: mainly for students and teachers. Subjects will include: online learning; new, social approaches to learning English; business English; global culture and the impact of English.
·         National and local interest: I am based in Milan, Italy. I tend to write about things that have some connection to either Milan or Italy in general. I am also collaborating with Danielle Dalkie, who is organising Network Roma. As a web-based project, however, Team Writing is open to people based anywhere in the world. However, if you are a freelancer, social media professional, language teacher or learner, you will probably want to find people in your location so that you can use your writing to make contact with partners and clients mainly where you are based. It will be interesting to see how this develops. I can see a network of groups springing up, all drawing on and feeding into the main Team Writing “cluster”.

We can also write about social and cultural topics, science, music, history, food, fashion... anything, really. But I suspect that the main value of this group will be topics that are quite closely related to people's activities as freelancers and social media practitioners.

Copyright and intellectual property

Of course, a group of people writing together raises the question of who owns the material produced. Since we are not a commercial organisation and we do not intend to sell our writing,  I think the best solution is to make whatever we write available under a Creative Commons Share-alike licence. (You can find more information about Creative Commons here.)

There are lots of issues about intellectual property and blogging (e.g. the sometimes controversial use of copyright images used to illustrate a post). This will be part of our discussion and could also be the theme of a series of posts itself.

Team Writing and English Revolution! / Open Source English

I am developing a parallel project (currently with the working title of Open Source English). I have also created a blog: English Revolution! The main idea of this project is to create a set of free, high-quality materials for English learners and language teachers. These will be available under a Creative Commons licence and will be the main tools for “Open Source English” teaching, a professional movement modelled on the Open Source community in the world of computer programming.

OK, you’re interested. How do you get involved?

All you need to do is contact me, Robert Dennis, and tell me a bit about yourself: who you are, what you want to achieve and what sort of things you are interested in. I will then give you access to the collaborative tools and platforms used by Team Writing. This is not a completely open group: there will be some selection based on what you want to do. You will also need a fairly good level of English. (Unfortunately, this is not a language training course, although you will be able to improve your English by taking part.) I envisage a sort of floating community of writers with people joining and drifting away, coming back, introducing friends and colleagues, etc. Over time, the core Team will emerge and other members of the group will take over some of the administrative roles (e.g. setting up blogs, groups, wikis, etc).

Contact me now! Send an email to or join any of my groups on LinkedIn or Facebook. I don’t need your CV, but it would help if you can provide some background information about yourself and links to your blog or website, if you have one.