Learn to write like a professional

Liz Hodgkinson is now offering a range of non-fiction writing tuition for all those who want or need to reach a wider audience and make sure their message is read and understood. On the courses, students will learn how to make their writing lively, persuasive, entertaining, informative and accurate.

The ability to write in such a way that readers will understand and care about what you have to say, is becoming a much sought-after skill, especially as it is now possible, via the internet, to reach a global audience.

There are millions of websites and blogs out there. Yet because so many people do not know how to write effectively, few read what they have to say. This is sad because very often, an important message, story or piece of research is buried in turgid, inaccessible prose.

There has never been, in the whole of history, such an opportunity to communicate to large numbers of people, and now you can learn to write plainly and clearly, with expert guidance - from a true professional.


For many years, Liz taught journalism at the City Literary Institute at Covent Garden, where her students were frequently published in leading newspapers such as The Times, Sunday Times, Telegraph, Guardian and Independent, often after being on the course for only a few weeks. Liz has a solid background as a staff writer on national newspapers, and has for many years been a prolific freelance contributing to the mainstream media. She is the author of more than 50 published books which have been translated into over 20 languages. Liz has an honours degree in English Language and Literature, and is a qualified teacher of adults and secondary school children. More recently, she has been providing content for commercial websites, so is fully up to date with the demands of new media.

Liz’s classes and courses are of three main types: individual, group and corporate.

Individual courses and training

These take place on Skype. There are various options. Students can book up a single hour for advice on a particular piece of work, a full training course; or receive expert guidance on a session by session, open-ended basis.

Liz is also offering a manuscript troubleshooting service for writers who have already begun work on, or maybe completed, a full-length work and want to know how to make it publishable.

The manuscript service has a number of levels:

  • Level 1: initial assessment as to whether the work or its subject matter might be publishable
  • Level 2: Detailed analysis of the work
  • Level 3: Practical help with constructing and editing the work.

Contact Liz to find out more.

There are also two formal, full-length writing courses available on a one-on-one basis:

How to write publishable articles
How to write publishable books

Course no 1:

How to write publishable articles

This is a highly structured course lasting eight weeks, and is designed to impart all the tricks of the journalist’s trade, including:

  • How to write clearly, concisely and entertainingly for a wide audience
  • How to target your work to a specific audience
  • How to structure articles
  • How to get light and shade into your work
  • How to grab readers and keep them interested
  • How to put complicated or technical information into easy, clear language
  • How to interview people and obtain quotes
  • How to edit
  • How to find markets
  • How to know what makes a story
  • How to find your Unique Selling Point

During the course, students will be expected to produce examples of their writing. This course is offered on a week by week basis, to give students time to produce their own work between sessions. Students who do not want or need to book up the whole course can pick and choose the elements they require, although for those who are complete beginners to writing for publication, the whole course is recommended.

After the course has finished, support and guidance can be offered on an ongoing basis for an hourly or half-hourly fee.

This course is suitable for students who want to bring journalistic know-how into their work and also for those who would like to become journalists as a career.

Worksheets and handouts will be provided and emailed to students.

Course no 2:

Writing publishable books.

On this course, lasting four weeks, students will learn:

  • How the modern publishing industry works;
  • How to prepare a professional book synopsis
  • How to know whether there is a market for your book, and what this market might be
  • How to approach agents and publishers

The book course is suitable for beginners, for those who would like to write a book but have no idea how or where to start, and also those who have already tried, but failed, to get a book published. During the course, students will be expected to produce their own book synopsis.

Again, this course is offered on a week-by-week basis, to give students time to prepare their own work.

Group Courses

One-day intensives can be arranged for small groups of up to 10 people. These will take place either in Liz’s home in Oxford or at a nearby venue and will last from 10am to 5pm with an hour for lunch. The courses will show students how to polish up their writing to make it sharp, clear and compelling to the reader.

Students will be expected to bring examples of their work to these intensives, which will be critiqued both by Liz and by fellow students. Experience has shown that this is an excellent and fast way for writing to improve. Also, students are working in a safe, protected and nurturing environment.


Liz can undertake training days for companies, at company headquarters, for employees who would like to improve the wording of their literature, both in-house and aimed at the general public. Although the graphic design of company brochures, factsheets, newsletters and other formal publications is often impressive, the actual words can leave much to be desired. Liz can help companies to cut through clichés and ponderous and hackneyed phrases to produce clear, original wording that will enhance their image in the market place and enable them to stand out from the crowd.

Contact Liz to find out more.


Who can benefit from this training?
Anybody who wants or needs to improve their writing so as to be able to communicate effectively in words will be able to benefit. If you want or have to write articles, manuals, newsletters, website content, brochures, flyers or promotional material, you can learn how to hone your message for maximum impact and interest.

The formal journalism and book courses are ideal for all those who have a burning desire to get into print, and want to understand how it may be achieved.

The classes are suitable both for nervous beginners and for those who are already writing, but want to improve their style. They are intended for students who already have a fluent command of English, and they are not language courses.

Although spelling, grammar and punctuation will be corrected, the tuition is not suitable for those who want to brush up their English grammar or learn how to spell.

What will I learn?
You will learn how to make your writing both lively and informative using tried and tested journalistic skills. One difference between journalistic writing and other types of writing is that journalism, at its best, is persuasive. It uses dramatic tricks to entice and carry the reader along, and enable interest to be maintained. You will also learn how to adapt your writing to different reading ages, and how to make your meaning immediately clear.

Crucially, you will learn how to précis your work and cut out all extraneous and unnecessary material and padding, so that your writing becomes sharp, clear and focused.

What if I have no confidence in my writing?
This tuition is aimed at giving you that confidence. Not everybody realises that effective writing is a craft, and much can be learned. You will gain confidence as your writing improves and you begin to understand how to use words to their best effect. The old saying: language is a precision instrument, applies today more than ever.

Is it true that anybody can learn to write?
Yes, up to a point. Although it is not the case that anybody can write like a genius, everybody can learn to write clearly and concisely.

How do I get started?
There are only two ways to become a writer: by constant reading and constant writing. All professional writers read all the time and they write all the time as well. If you love reading and you like writing, you have already made a good start. However, when it comes to writing, it helps if you know what you are doing and why. Liz will show you how to hone your skills so that the style and content neatly complement each other.

Are there any secrets to being published?
All successful writers, since the invention of the printed word, have been dedicated, hard-working people who have been totally determined to get published. They work ceaselessly to perfect their craft and know that the first draft is not always the one that finds its way into print. The only real secret is that you have to be prepared to work away at your writing in the same way as perfecting any other craft. Good writing does not just happen on its own; it requires many hours of application. There is no magic to it.

As the poet Alexander Pope said: True ease in writing comes from art, not chance. As those move easiest who have learned to dance.

Liz’s classes, however, can show you how to cut straight through to what is important about your message or information, and help you to choose the right words for what you want to say.

Is it true that I have to ‘dumb down’ to reach a wide audience?
No. This is a common misconception. There are very few concepts and ideas which cannot be conveyed to a lay readership in simple language. A useful tip here is to have a typical reader in mind that you would like to reach.

My subject is very technical; can it be adapted to a lay audience?
Yes, is the simple answer. Liz’s expert training will enable you to do this. You will also be shown how to substitute a complex or technical word with an everyday equivalent which carries the same, or similar, meaning. Above all, you will learn how to recognise pretentious, sententious, arrogant, egotistical or alienating language, and eliminate it from your work.

Is this tuition suitable for children?
No, it is aimed at adults. Having said that, the classes will certainly be suitable for those who want to write for the children’s market, as clarity and verve are even more vital for young minds.

I’m interested in the books course. Which books are suitable for this type of tuition?
All types of non-fiction apart from books containing complicated equations or numbers. Liz can only help with the words, although guidance can be given on putting together illustrated books. Suitable non-fiction genres include: biography, autobiography; family memoirs; life writing; historical works; how-to books; technical manuals; company histories; science and technology; new age; health, travel, property, children’s books, books for teenagers and young adults; books for the mainstream market and books for specialised audiences. Whatever the subject matter of the book, the advice will be the same, and will show how to shape and adapt your material to make it compelling and exciting.

If there is a secret to writing a good book, it is that the quality of the writing, and not the subject matter, is what makes it either interesting or dull.

Do the courses cover fiction, short story writing or poetry?
No, this tuition is for non-fiction writing only.

Is the training suitable for those writing academic papers or books?
Whatever the subject, Liz can help you to make your meaning clear and comprehensible. She would only be able to give broad guidance on putting together a PhD thesis; but if you are interested in adapting the material for a wider readership than just your professor, she can teach you appropriate skills.

What about web, or online content?
Yes, Liz can show you how to present yourself, your company, business or charity, on a website. She is not an IT specialist and cannot help people to set up the technical aspects of a site. However, whatever the format, whether online or print, the outcome is the same: the need to present your material in the most appealing way, so that people actually want to read it.

Do the courses cover design?
No, Liz is not qualified to teach design, although she can show you how to write to a specific length, particularly in cases where captions or extended captions are required along with the image or design.

What times of the day do the courses and classes run?
The individual classes can be geared to the students’ specific needs and times arranged to suit. Liz is prepared to coach students in the evenings and weekends, and also early morning. Group courses will be run at weekends, and corporate courses during normal business hours.
Note: individual sessions will take place on Skype, but group and corporate training will usually be face-to-face.

What if I’m outside the UK?
No problem for individual students. Thanks to Skype, there need be no national boundaries. However, Liz can only teach in English, to English-speaking students. She cannot offer translation facilities or help those to whom English is a foreign language. Liz can only teach students who can already speak English fluently and idiomatically.

How to book up

If you are interested in learning how to write like a professional, contact Liz via email, with no obligation. This should outline who you are, why you want to write, and which aspects of writing particularly interest or concern you. Liz will then suggest an appropriate course, class or series of classes for you. Work can be sent, edited and corrected by email.


Skype classes are charged at £50 an hour. The full journalism course costs £400 including handouts and the full book-writing course is £200. The manuscript reading service is charged at between £145 and £300, depending on the level required.

Charges for critiquing or editing individual articles, manuals, newsletters or flyers will depend on the length and type of the work. Fees and charges for ongoing support are by individual arrangement. One-day group intensives cost between £75 - £100 per person including lunch, and corporate sessions are priced by arrangement. Individual one-day intensives can also be arranged, although they will cost more than the group sessions.

Note: Liz cannot accept, or read, unsolicited submissions.


As this training is new, the classes and courses are not yet VAT-registered, although this may change in time. In some cases, the courses are tax-deductible.

A letter from a past student:
Hi Liz,
I saw your book ‘Ladies of the Street’ advertised in’The Lady’ magazine and
it prompted me to buy a copy. I just want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed
it and learnt a great deal.
I’m always grateful to you for your excellent teaching skills, having
attended some of your Journalism courses at City Lit several years ago.

I now write a regular monthly column for a magazine and enjoy wrting

Kind Regards

Margaret Aspinall