Return to blog
St Patrick: one of the earliest Irish writers

Sometimes people are surprised that St Patrick is confirmed as a historical figure in the records, given that his mission to convert the pagan Irish began in 432 AD. He was born in modern-day  Wales to a Romano-British family. At the age of 16 he was taken by raiders and sold as a slave in Ireland.

A couple of interesting writing facts about St Patrick:

1. Patrick wrote in Latin.

2. Two works are accredited to him: the Confessio (or Declaration) and the Epistola (or Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus).

His Confessio begins very simply:

My name is Patrick...
I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many.
My father was Calpornius. He was a deacon; his father was Potitus, a priest, who lived at Bannavem Taburniae.
His home was near there, and that is where I was taken prisoner.
I was about sixteen at the time.

 3. Many modern historians admire the writings of Patrick:

Since his writings have come to be better understood, it is increasingly recognized that, despite their occasional incoherence, they mirror a truth and a simplicity of the rarest quality. Not since St. Augustine of Hippo had any religious diarist bared his inmost soul as Patrick did in his writings. As D.A. Binchy, the most austerely critical of Patrician (i.e., of Patrick) scholars, put it, “The moral and spiritual greatness of the man shines through every stumbling sentence of his ‘rustic’ Latin.” Source: Britannica.com

 

Get your climate change message across with this great jargon buster

To change people's behaviour, people need to understand what they're being asked to do. The Government of Ireland has published a great new resource explaining climate issues in plain language.

From 'electric vehicles' to 'carbon footprint' to 'retrofitting', the explanations are all here. Better still, you can easily search for a term under headings such as 'Home', 'Transport', etc.

Developed with input from the Environmental Protection Agency, Comhairle na nÓg and the National Adult Literacy Agency, this is a great resource for teachers, activists and everyone concerned about protecting and restoring our planet.

Find the jargon buster here: https://climatejargonbuster.ie/ 

How to write a CV that recruiters will want to read

Imagine your company is hiring. Great! Now imagine you’re the person who has to review all the applications. Mmmm. So, what would you like to see when you start opening those files? What would make you dismiss an application straight away? What would stand out? Think from the other side of the table and it’s easier to see what to do – and what not to do – when writing a job application.

1.   Name files logically

You’re just starting your task of reviewing the applications. When you open your file manager with all the applications you have to screen, do you want to see 10 files called Cover letter.doc? Why not? Because to screen applicants efficiently you’ll need to rename all the files first. As an applicant, think of the recruiter and avoid giving them extra work by calling your file something logical like Grace Murphy CV Proj Manager.doc.

2.   Keep it short

Staying in your role as recruiter – do you want to wade through chunks of text? Probably not. ‘Keep it short’ is the most important rule of all in this context. A CV is not a thesis or a novel. Give all information relevant to the job you’re applying for, describing education and work experience succinctly. This means giving all relevant information but in as concise a way as possible.

3.   Tailor your application to the company

Tailoring your application is important; it shows you have spent time considering how your skills match the requirements. Recruiters want to know what you can do for them, not just what you can do or have done.

Recruiters to a financial or pharmaceutical company don’t need to know you worked in a bar during college. So unless you’re just starting out, don’t list this type of work, unless of course it is specifically relevant to the role. If you want to account for a couple of short-term jobs together, put something like ‘General retail/hotel/bar work experience 2016–2018’.

4.   Use bullet points

Bullet points are your friend in job applications. Recruiters have minimal time to spend on each application, so use bullet points in most sections of the CV. For example, instead of:

  • In my role as a project worker from June to December 2018 I had many important functions. One of my main duties was to take detailed minutes of the daily project meetings. This involved typing up the minutes and sending them to the team. Another task was to proofread reports from the team. I was the first reviewer, which meant I had to carefully examine each one and check anything that wasn’t clear …

write:

  Project worker, June–December 2018

  Skills:

·         Taking meeting minutes, proofreading reports

Although the first format is clear, it’s too long and the recruiter will likely skim it without taking the information in.

5.   Be specific

It’s tempting sometimes in CVs to be vague, especially if you’re not sure exactly how to describe an aspect of a job. However, the recruiter is looking for specific qualifications and experience, so if you have these you need to be clear that you do. For example, if you have good administration experience within a research team, instead of:

·         Key member of team leading research with partner organisations and educational institutions

write:

·         Administrator with research team

6.   Use simple language and avoid jargon

You may have the experience the recruiter wants, but if you hide it in jargon the person reviewing your application might miss it. For example, what does this mean:

·         Took a leading role in strategic thinking around developing a future expansion framework

Maybe it means something like:

·         Took part in planning the expansion of the company, including putting forward ideas and writing parts of report

If so, they’re good skills to have. The recruiter doesn’t have time to decipher convoluted writing like the example here, so use simple language and get your message across.

7.   Mention any gaps in dates in the cover letter

Gaps can occur in CVs for any number of reasons – travel, family, illness, study – and recruiters are used to seeing them. Whatever the reason it needs to be explained. If you leave a gap the recruiter will probably query it at or before interview. Again, being upfront in the CV leaves no room for doubt and gives the recruiter one more reason to keep your CV in the pile.

8.   Use the interests section well

You may be the life and soul of the party but your CV doesn't care. Use the interests section to briefly mention any major achievements in sports, the arts or whatever, or to indicate that you are a rounded, responsible person by choosing one or two things you are genuinely involved in. If you volunteer you could mention that here. Don’t feel you need to put in interests if there’s nothing you particularly want to mention.

Takeaway: Say clearly and succinctly how your skills and experience match the recruiter’s requirements, and above all, don’t put the recruiter to sleep!

For a professional review of your CV/cover letter, get in touch at editor@perfectlywrite.eu


Capturing and keeping your audience

Here's an extract from my new blog, written for the Association of Freelance Editors, Proofreaders & Indexers of Ireland, which sets out nine guidelines for capturing - and keeping - your audience:

Write to allow scanning
With so many people reading on-screen nowadays, reading has evolved toward scanning. Scanning can be described as ‘a quick review of text with the intention of taking in as much information as possible in order to make a decision as to whether to read more closely’. Write to allow scanning by using a clear structure, numerous subheadings, lists for complex material, and short paragraphs.

Read the full post here: https://www.afepi-ireland.com/blog/capturing-and-keeping-your-audience/

Guidelines for writing inclusively

People working in the community and voluntary sector and in the public sector need to pay particular attention to writing inclusively.

Writing inclusively means writing to include all humans, and not excluding individuals or groups whether by accident or design. Inclusive writing is important because: ‘Language is a reflection of the attitudes, behaviours and norms within a society. It also shapes people's attitudes as to what is “normal” and acceptable’ (European Commission).

According to the National Disability Authority of Ireland, language should ‘reflect the individuality, equality or dignity of people’.

Research has shown that designating people by their individuality and common humanity first helps other people to view them in a more neutral way. Relevant attributes include gender, race, disability, religion and sexual orientation.

What we want to do is talk about different groups of people in a way that acknowledges differences but remains neutral. The following sets out some general guidelines on how to talk about various groups of people in an inclusive way.

1. Research how people prefer to be identified

Research how the people in the communities you are writing about prefer to be identified. Avoid terms that remove personhood, or that define people by a disability or similar attribute.

2. Refer to the specific attribute only when necessary

This guideline speaks for itself; if an attribute has no relevance in the context, then leave it out.

3. Use person-first language

An important tenet for human rights organisations is that labels are for files, not for people. When we need to refer to specific attributes of groups, we emphasise the person first and the attribute after: ‘people with disabilities’ and not ‘the disabled’; ‘people from low-income backgrounds’, not ‘the poor’.               

4. Use positive language

When we use a phrase such as ‘non-Catholic’, we are defining someone by what they are not rather than what they are. Instead of using ‘non-Catholic’ use Buddhist, Methodist or whatever is relevant. Rather than ‘non-Irish’ use the person’s place of origin.

5. Avoid stereotyping

All of us tend to stereotype to some extent, depending on our life experiences, and we do so unthinkingly, without any intention of excluding people. However, negative stereotypes should be avoided. Gender is a common aspect of stereotyping: ‘The doctor updated his records’; ‘The secretary rushed through her work.’ Avoid stereotyping by social class and age group also.

6. Dealing with particular attributes

Gender Gendered language should be used only when it is relevant to know the gender of the person being discussed. Other aspects include using neutral nouns where possible, for example, ‘chair’ rather than ‘chairman’. The singular ‘they/their’ can be used to replace the more awkward ‘he/she, s/he, his/her’.

Age The basic rule applies when referring to older people: the best way is to refer to them simply as ‘older people’. This focuses on personhood in a way that other phrases do not.

Race Regarding race, again refer to it only if it is necessary to do so. Say ‘Black person’ rather than ‘Black’, but if you do this then also say ‘White person’. It is not that we want to remove all references to race, because race is an important aspect of identity. Rather we want to treat it as an attribute like any other, to be used in the same way for people of all races.

Disability or illness 

Many terms that were used for a long time in the area of disability are outdated and no longer acceptable. Be aware of paternalism when discussing disability, and make sure to use person-first language. We now speak of ‘people with an intellectual/physical disability’ rather than people being ‘mentally handicapped’ or ‘disabled’. It is also best to avoid loaded words such as ‘suffers’ or ‘victim’.

Conclusion

To some people, paying attention to inclusive language is political correctness gone mad. To others it is a genuine attempt to discuss issues in a way that avoids being hurtful. It seems worthwhile to make that effort.