Learning and Selling by Seeing

In another part of my life, I’m a training developer. I create programs that teach business people how to write documents, presentations, even emails. Of all the topics I get asked to teach, the one I never would have guessed is at the top of the list: grammar. Grammar is rarely taught in elementary or middle school

Diagramming a sentence from Homework Help at About.com

Diagramming a sentence from Homework Help at About.com

anymore, so tomorrow’s leaders have to learn syntax and grammar quickly. And that’s what I do–invent creative ways to make grammar interesting.

When I call the Inner Hero book “my second book,” it’s with a touch of irony. In the last year, I’ve written half a dozen workbooks on technical writing, grammar, email communication and creative problem solving. But they aren’t sold in bookstores, so I rarely mention them.

Last week a client said something that made a lot of sense to me. “We offer a lot of classes, and we want people to take grammar, but they have to see the value in it. And grammar sounds boring.” Yes, yes, it does. She said, wistfully, “I wish you could do a cartoon instead of the outline of what’s in the class.” What a great idea my client had! So I sat down with the “boring” outline and made it visual.

BEGR_VisualWe are visual people, and looking at something colorful and interesting makes grammar less threatening. Looking at a busy, colorful “map” of the course is a better way to sell it than an outline.

When I was done, I did one for Business Writing, too. I hope it helps the visual people see the benefit of the class.


Using visual creative tools to explain everyday topics shows the utility in a new, fresh, appealing way. The client knows her audience. And now I have a new tool in my training tool box, too.

–Quinn McDonald loves blending the different parts of her life through creative problem solving.

23 thoughts on “Learning and Selling by Seeing

  1. Quinn, Those pages remind me of the lessons you did for us at Artists of the Round Table while we were exploring your book “Raw Art Journaling”. We enjoyed the illustrated lessons so much !
    I used to stress to my sons the importance of proper grammar as well as good manners when they were young. As adults, they have both thanked me for stressing both !
    Looking forward to your new book !

  2. Hi Quinn,
    Just getting caught up on your blogs. I love the way the cartooning illustrates grammatical concepts. If you include both the word version and the picture version in your intro packets, you’ll cover everyone! (unless they need to hear it).
    Vicky F

  3. So how can we get the writing workbooks? When I am writing (business or not) one of the things that can stop my creative flow in its tracks is getting stuck on one of the myriad grammar rules. I stop thinking about the story, stop writing, reach for Strunk and then all is set awry and hours are consumed.. Help me stop this madness. What is transitive anyway and why do I care? I am NOT Googling this stuff anymore.
    (Those little red squiggles under misspelled words catch my eye and stop me too, but I am learning to ignore them; slowing down reduces their numbers too).

    • The writing workbooks are done for business clients of mine who hire me to come into their business, see what they do, read the documents they have written, develop a course for them that helps people learn the things they have to learn, bring a pile of workbooks and teach the course at the business. Custom training is part of what QuinnCreative offers clients. I also offer grammar/syntax coaching. It’s one-on-one, has homework (because it’s easier to learn with examples) and goes as fast as the coaching client wants it to go. That means questions, repetition, exercises until the client feels comfortable with it.

      Now, on transitive and intransitive verbs.
      Verbs are action words: run, write, sing, accept, promote, hold.
      Verbs also include states of being: John was exhausted. “Was exhausted” describes John’s state.

      A sentence must have a verb to be complete. The shelf holds six books.
      A simple sentence, like the one above, has three parts: a subject (that does the action), a verb (the action), and a direct object (that receives the action).
      To see how a sentence it put together, look for the verb first: Holds. So “holds” is the verb.
      Then ask “Who or what [verb]?” to find the subject (person or thing doing the action).
      So “what holds?” The shelf holds. “Shelf” is the subject of the sentence.
      Still with me? Good.
      To find the object, ask the question, “The [subject] [verb] what?” So, the shelf holds what?” Books. So “books” is the direct object.

      Transitive verbs are verbs that take a direct object.
      “The shelf holds six books” needs the word “books” to finish the sentence. “The shelf holds” doesn’t make sense without a direct object.
      So in the sentence above, “holds” is a transitive verb.

      Intransitive verbs cannot take an object. Verbs of being are a good example of this.
      “The plant has thrived on the windowsill” is an example.
      If you find the verb [has thrived} and ask “What?” the answer is “the plant” So, the full subject is “The plant” and the full verb is “has thrived.” But if you ask “The plant has thrived [what?] there is no answer. The words “on the windowsill” tells you where, not what.
      So verbs that cannot take an object are intransitive.

      Keep writing. Editing fixes grammar and syntax.

  4. love your drawings/charting?? I was taught grammar the old fashioned way. by a teacher who resembled an angry rabbit, very large front teeth. transitive, intransitive, adverbs, verbs, nouns (not to be used as verbs) , some of it still sticks!

  5. Holy toledo! This is a very long story that I’ll tell you if you want, but 20 years and 3000 miles away I needed to teach the staff of Apple University some technical gobbledygook or other. They didn’t appreciate the written documentation, so I tried cartoons.

    At around the same time, when you first turned on your new Macintosh computer, a cartoon guy (his name was Jay) offered to help you learn how to use it. I didn’t create Jay; that was Eric Quakenbush, a professional illustrator. It was so long ago that Jay didn’t speak out loud — Apple shipped computers ready to use in 70 languages, and we didn’t have storage space for all that sound!

    • By the way, how do you present sentence diagramming so people find it useful? For me it was the same as a lot of math; I usually knew the right answer but couldn’t always fake the approved procedure to get there.

      • We don’t do diagramming in class. It’s useful, in an engineering sort of way, to help people, but the people I have for eight hours don’t know the difference between verbs and nouns. So we have to move faster, with fewer rules.

      • In fact I’m not usually a visual learner, exactly. Or maybe it depends. In many areas I prefer learning from print with a minimum of pictures. Other things I’d rather just be given the problem itself and I’ll figure it out. One thing that has generally been unhelpful is the presence of a “teacher”. Although there’ve been a few exceptions to that too.

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