How and Why Should We Write well?

kaitlynGuest Blogger Kaitlyn Stahl, ’15

In a globalized world, communication is everywhere. Often, people do not realize how much they must communicate with others. It can involve anything from ordering a coffee or posting a Facebook status to collaborating on a team or writing a proposal. In the professional world, writing is a skill everyone should strive to master.

As discussed in an earlier blog post, good grammar can correlate with salary, higher positions, and promotions. This is because grammar skills may indicate many positive workplace traits, including attention to detail, critical thinking, and intellectual aptitude. In a LinkedIn discussion topic, Dave Kerpen, CEO and NY Times best-selling author, explains it, “your writing is a reflection of your thinking. Clear, succinct, convincing writing will differentiate you as a great thinking and a valuable asset to your team.”

writing-habitsHe gives examples of how he often receives poorly written emails where the grammar is off, words are misspelled, and often the writer leans to flowery language, which obscures the meaning. He continues on by discussing how you must become a better writer in order to be considered seriously as a smart thinker. By writing well, you demonstrate that you can think well because you prove you are able to analyze and explain problems. He gives five main ways to improve your writing skills:

The first is practice (so important, he says it three times). This is true for acquiring most skills, and Kerpen suggests always reaching for ways to write – anything from blog posts like this one or content for a website – and not giving into self-excuses.

The second is saying it out loud. Sometimes you can only hear mistakes or awkward phrasing when writing is read out loud. Here, you can even have a friend read it out loud so you can listen more objectively and take notes on what parts they stumble over. (Or take it to the Writing Center where reading the paper aloud is standarcalvin-writingd procedure!)

The third is being concise. As Calvin aptly shows in the above comic, sometimes more words can be more confusing. Kerpen often asks himself “How can I say the same thing in fewer words?” which is a much stronger approach to writing and even editing that trying to sound too smart.

Fourth is working on headlines. Headlines should show exactly what your writing is about. This blog post shouldn’t be named “Calvin and Hobbes comics.” Although it features these characters, that’s not what the content is about. Conversely, although Calvin’s essay title may describe what his essay covers, it isn’t easily understood. In most situations, headlines should be direct and concise.

Fifth, and finally, is to read. If you want to write well, you need to make time to read. Not only will it broaden your understanding, but also you’ll slowly pick up on the differences between good and bad writing. Reading is a great source of inspiration for writers.

Add these tips to your rhetorical toolkit for clear, effective writing!



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