Global Literacy is Everyone’s Concern

From our friends at Grammarly (written by Brittney Ross)

Our world today is perhaps more text-driven than at any other time in history. In the Digital Age, the ability to read and write can transform lives, families, and even whole communities. Since UNESCO celebrated the very first International Literacy Day on September 8, 1966, the plight of millions of people around the world has improved through programs dedicated to helping marginalized populations become literate. But there is still a long way to go.

Illiteracy is more than just a lack of reading skills. Around the world, it is a clear predictor of poverty, illness, and disempowerment. It’s not a problem confined to the developing world, either. Even in the United States, there are thirty-two million adults who cannot read, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

To celebrate International Literacy Day and help raise awareness about the importance of literacy, we have gathered the latest literacy statistics from around the world into an infographic.



Guest Post from Grammarly: Using Technology to Complete a Novel at Warp-Speed

We at Mindbuck Media are pleased as the proverbial spiked punch to have Allison VanNest of provide a guest post for us.

By Allison VanNest,

Over the last decade, technology has changed just about every part of our lives. From smart phones and tablets to ever-present Wi-Fi and HDTV, the list of incredible technological advances goes on and on. However, one area that technology hasn’t seemed to touch is novel writing. A proper novel will always require a dedicated author working tirelessly to develop a story and to bring compelling characters to life.

Technology doesn’t really figure in to the novel writing process.

Or does it?

GrammoWriMo LogoIn November, Grammarly debuted GrammoWriMo, a spinoff of National Novel Writing Month. As part of this project, hundreds of writers signed up to co-write a single 50,000-word novel. While this is would be a daunting project for any single writer to complete in 30 days, Grammarly’s writers knew that they were up for the task if they did it together.

And they were right. Although more than 300,000 people signed up for NaNoWriMo in 2013, only 41,940 novels were actually completed. Clocking in at a total of 130,927 unedited words, the GrammoWriMo group novel was among them!

Over the next few years, technology will drastically change the way that we communicate in writing. Grammarly is at the forefront of this change – having already created a project to make the writing process both social and democratic.

The response to GrammoWriMo was overwhelming:

  • Thousands of people participated in surveys to determine the plot of the group novel and submit potential cover art; 287 writers ultimately contributed to the project
  • Writers from 27 countries – and 44 U.S. states – contributed an average of 580 words each to the group novel
  • 70 percent of GrammoWriMo participants have a personal blog, and an impressive 55 percent have been published online at some point

Naturally, there are some hurdles to clear when trying to bring together a project of this size in such a short amount of time. Two of the biggest challenges that the Grammarly team faced were organization and cohesion.

WriteOnNaNoWriMoGetting organized

To make GrammoWriMo work, Grammarly divided writers into groups (around 25 people per chapter) that were assigned to work simultaneously on each of the novel’s 30 chapters. Each writer within each group was assigned a specific day on which to write. Writers built on the work of those before them until the chapter was finished and each author has applied his or her own touch to the manuscript.

Technology played a large role in making this kind of organization possible. A Google Doc was assigned to each chapter-group, so writers could easily access the growing document without having to pass around email attachments. Also, individual Facebook groups were established for each chapter so they could quickly and easily communicate and problem-solve along the way.

lonely wishgiverCreating a cohesive novel

Each of the 30 chapters was written simultaneously, so writers had to pay close attention to the outline created for their own chapter, as well as the plot points introduced in chapters before and after them. For this to work, the entire book had to be outlined in advance of the project so writers working on later chapters would have an idea of what would be appearing in the earlier pages of the novel.

A very specific and detailed plot summary was provided to all writers, highlighting the purpose and direction of each individual chapter. This document was continuously updated by the Grammarly team and established the main characters and storyline while allowing for some freedom of creativity for the writers themselves.

What do you think?

Is this project likely to change the way novels are written from this day forward? No – probably not. However, it is an exciting demonstration of how technology can bring people and ideas together with a common goal. No longer is the process of writing a novel limited to a solitary writer banging away on a keyboard until the story is complete. Projects like GrammoWriMo prove that innovative thinking can bring new solutions to age-old challenges.

Would you co-write a novel with 300 other people? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

AllieA self-proclaimed word nerd, Allison VanNest works with Grammarly to help perfect written English. Connect with Allie, the Grammarly team, and more than ONE MILLION Grammarly Facebook fans at


Secrets, Inspiration and Indulgence with the Sexy Grammarian

I had a virtual sit down with San Francisco based teacher and writer Kristy Lin Billuni also known as The Sexy Grammarian.  What follows is our conversation from grammar to robots for your enjoyment.


Jessica G: Off the top, what’s so sexy about grammar? Hmmmm?

Sexy Grammarian:  One the most important sex education lessons I know is that sexy is different for everybody. Grammar is sexy for me for a lot of reasons. I like strong, clear communication. I like juicy, meaningful self-expression. That stuff turns me on. And I can geek out on the grammatical structure of a sentence too. For a lot of people, even writers, grammar is the least sexy thing in the world, which makes it hard to learn. I cut my educator teeth on sex education, so I use a lot of the same principles when I teach grammar and writing. I’m nonjudgmental about what turns you on as a writer. I emphasize the drive of active verbs and the beauty of a well-placed comma. And I use naughty language in my example sentences.

JG: What advice do you have for someone who has just finished their first book length manuscript?

SG: Readers! Before you pay for a professional line edit or start looking for a publisher, get a few trusted friends to give you their opinion. Because editors charge by the word, you will save money by cutting unnecessary sections. Or you might realize that your ending doesn’t work. And you will definitely gain more devoted supporters and future readers by getting the people you love to invest time and love into your project.

JG: Do you recommend people edit as they write or that they wait until the story is a full draft?

SG: I absolutely believe in separating your composition time from your critique time. I know a lot of writers do it, but I think it’s tough to expect yourself to be expansive and creative while also being self-critical and detail oriented. I like to write with abandon, focus on quantity, then let the manuscript rest before I return to it for editing and polishing for quality.

JG: Robots or dinosaurs?

SG: I rely on robots for everything from boiling water to running my social media, so I have to be loyal to them.

JG: How long have you had your Sexy Grammarian website?

SG:  In 2013 I celebrated 10 years in business, but I haven’t always called myself The Sexy Grammarian. I launched the Sexy Grammar blog in 2008 to experiment with social media. People loved it, so I embraced it. Now, it’s my service mission: Arouse the writer.

JG: Would you consider a pit match with Grammar Girl?
(For the record, JG is an ardent Grammar Girl fan, too and has considered tattooing a QR code for the Affect V. Effect post on the back of her hand. But who would say no to Grammar Celebrity Pit Matches?)

SG:  Well, I don’t know what a pit match is, but I wouldn’t want to go up against Mignon Fogarty in any kind of contest. I love what she does and go to her website to review grammar guidelines all the time.

JG: Do you have any current projects you are particularly excited about?

SG: I’m about to start editing a graphic novel for the first time, and I’m excited about entering a new genre. I’m helping a psychic brand her services, which is a totally fascinating process. And I’ve got four of my own dirty stories coming out in collections from Cleis Press this year. I’m really proud of that.

JG:  Tell us about your workshops. Are these available online to those outside of SF?

SexyGPostSG: I think that writing requires attention in three major areas: You have to learn some of the secrets of writing, the rules and guidelines. You have to embrace whatever inspires you. And you have to indulge in a writer’s life, whatever that means for you. So writers in the Sexy Grammar Workshop explore secrets, inspiration, and indulgence, and we have a lot of fun moving our projects forward. I like to mix genres in my workshops so that poets are helping real estate agents write marketing content, and academics are giving novelists feedback on their plots. This works because no matter what you’re writing, the process matters. We focus on finding the process that works for each writer. You can bring the Sexy Grammar Workshop to your organization or writing group right now, and we’re launching the online version at the end of 2014.

You are encouraged to find out more about The Sexy Grammarian on her website and to flirt with her on Twitter  @SexyGrammar