Sep 8, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Lest you were misled, writing is a thing of the past, present, and future. It is a skill that you need here and now—and you need to be good.  Why?  The ability to express ideas clearly and logically will never fail you.  You’re judged—for better or worse—if you can’t express your ideas in writing.

 

An article in The Washington Post this summer examined why college graduates can’t write—and why it’s critical that they can.  The conclusion?  College grads can’t write at the level they need because they do not have enough of the right opportunities to practice.  Why?  Students aren’t required to read or write regularly or extensively, to their detriment.

Let’s take a closer look at why writing skills are essential—and we’ll also give you some pointers on improving yours.

1. Employers value stellar writing skills

According to surveys by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), employers want college graduates who can “write coherently, think creatively and analyze quantitative data.”  In surveys of corporate hiring leaders, writing skills are a big gap in workplace readiness.

Burning Glass Technologies, an analytics software company that studies the labor market, recently analyzed job trends in real time.  What did they find?  The most requested job requirements across every industry, including IT and engineering, are writing and communication.

Why do they have to specify writing and communication skills?  So many graduates lack them.

 

2. They help you stay connected

You know you’re connected on social media, through text messaging, and to a smaller extent, email.  You write all the time—and it’s often in a series of quick, unpunctuated responses. 

When you write well and make your points clear—especially at work, but even with friends—people understand you.  When people understand you, you establish connection.  The power of human connection?  Limitless.

3. Poor writing damages your credibility

Professionally, there’s limited space for trial and error.  If you have solid writing skills, your coworkers will see you as more credible than others. 

Think about it: when you receive an email littered with typos and grammatical errors, you wonder how much time the sender spent writing it—and how serious that person is.

At best, those kinds of emails are rushed.  At worst?  They reflect a less capable, less intelligent writer.

While an occasional error is ok, habitual, poorly written work is not.

Do yourself a favor and set yourself up for success.  See #4.

 

4.  How to improve:

a. Learn or re-learn the basics

Spelling and basic grammar will never steer you in the wrong direction.  For starters, use the spelling and grammar checker that comes with your word processor. 

Consider an on-line tool that checks spelling and grammar—and also offers clear, concise explanations and suggestions.  There’s a small fee, but if you’re struggling, it might be worth it.

b. Take a class or join a workshop

One of the best ways to improve your skills?  Practice. 

There’s no better way than to practice with a group of peers who are trying to learn the same things. 

Another idea?  Take a writing class.  If there’s a specific area of writing you’d like to work on, let your teacher know.

Don’t know where to start? Contact your university’s writing center.  They’re sure to point you in the right direction

c. Keep it simple

Start small.  Dream big.  Don’t let writing intimidate you. 

Here’s a start: ease up on prepositional phrases.  Don’t know what those are?  Take a peek.

Step 2?  Get rid of filler words.  Here’s a primer. Loaded phrases don’t say anything and they take up lots of space.  Get rid of them.

Ready to go?  You can do it.  Don’t let writing scare you.  Embrace it, use it, and do some good with it. Read more about studying writing and composition.

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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