AlumnEye in Tech: Developing a knack for writing

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By Bashair Ali

What was once a hobby has now become a fully equipped writing service company for Ted Killin, the creator of Knack—an educational writing program. Knack, which officially launched in 2021, provides hands-on workshops to newcomers and refugees across Toronto, helping them improve their language skills and combat everyday barriers.

Killin developed a passion for helping immigrants to the country while working at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) as a research communications coordinator from 2016 to 2021. During that time, he also volunteered to tutor a pilot English class and completed his master’s in immigration and settlement studies at the university.

“I met some newcomers, and because I’m a professional writer, I was able to help with the language.”

“I met some newcomers, and because I’m a professional writer, I was able to help with the language,” said Killin. 

After the class ended in 2021, he joined the University of Toronto’s Cultural and Exchange Support Initiative at the department of near & middle eastern civilizations, as their Coordinator for English language development. The program acted as a stepping stone for refugees applying to universities or for those who are in need of English proficiency.  

Later that year, applying his degree in professional writing and work experience in copy editing, Killin came up with Knack. 

Killin’s ultimate goal is for his students to develop an understanding of the English language to the best of their ability, so they can express themselves clearly in any circumstances.

“Refugees, when they first arrive, need Canadian credentials, some experience, language skills and they also could use a little pocket money,” said Killin. “I thought, ‘Well, wait a second, what if I was able to create a training program that did all of these three things?’”

Killin provides an understanding of what he likes to call ‘the mechanics’, which involve “solid sentence structure, proper punctuation and more concise phrasing,” according to the introduction video featured on his website. He also emphasizes the importance of vocabulary and the flow of ideas. 

“The motivation behind it is to pay refugees for their time and help them gain English skills,” said Killin.

The writing projects range from professional pieces, including cover letters and resumes to personal stories and essays.

Knack’s editing process is unlike generic marking schemes. He changes the game, using a colour coding system based on emojis. For instance, a purple highlight means that there is too much repetition in the paragraph, while blue signifies excellence. Most importantly to Killin, criticism is never symbolized by a frowning face. 

“I think a lot of the time when people get slapped down in their writing, it stings,” says Killin. He wants Knack to be known for a positive feedback system. 

I think a lot of the time when people get slapped down in their writing, it stings.”

Now, Killin’s services are open to anybody looking to improve their writing, and charges a fee for his workshops. 

Knack features a variety of options, from a $25 writing analysis workshop in which Killin will reveal one’s strengths and weaknesses, to a $450 coaching package which consists of five coaching sessions. 

“I don’t charge newcomers and refugees. The charges you’ll see online are for white-collar workers,” he said.

Killin plans on expanding his audience in September to target the student population in Toronto. 

“The lessons I’m trying to put out there are useful for everybody and the idea is to create these community workshops where refugees can meet Canadian students and give people a bit more of these networking and social connections,” said Killin. 

He hopes to not only make a difference in the lives of refugees in the country, but also international and Canadian students. 

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