Writing Skills Matter
Writing Skills MatterJun 06
Years ago I taught Freshman English. I can’t count the number of times a student told me that what I taught, basic grammar and writing skills, didn’t matter.
I’m afraid that I didn’t do a great job of convincing my students that their writing skills would matter once they entered the work force.
“I’m going to be a nurse, I don’t need to write essays.”
Fill in whatever career you like, but if it wasn’t directly related to writing, then most students assume that they won’t need to be able to write well, or even passably well.
I work in the IT field, and there isn’t a person I know who doesn’t answer several, sometimes dozens, of e-mails ever day. Yes, your ability to communicate clearly and well matters. Making lots of grammar errors can and will mark you as someone possessing substandard communication skills.
“I’ll have a secretary to do my writing for me.”
This one is actually pretty funny. I don’t know of many people who have a dedicated secretary, unless you’re a CEO. If you have an assistant at all, you’ll likely share that person with several others. No, he/she won’t have time to write all your e-mails for you.
You don’t have to have the same level of writing skills that your English teachers demanded. For most people, that’s unrealistic as well. Keep in mind your English teachers were pushing you to learn as much as possible, and holding you to a high standard in order to do that.
In the workplace, you do need to have good writing skills, but they can still be imperfect but acceptable.
How do you know if they’re good enough? Compare yourself to others. Try comparing your writing abilities with those immediately above you, that is, your manager and his/her peers. Do you write at least as well as they do? If so, that’s great. Your writing skills are probably fine for now.
What if you don’t measure up?
Improving your skills
It’s tough to improve your writing skills without some feedback. Here are a few ideas for getting help to improve your writing.
- Take a class. This is obvious, and probably the most traditional approach. However, a good class devoted to business writing will do wonders for your abilities. Check your local community colleges for classes that won’t break your budget.
- Join an online writer’s group. You’ll probably have to commit to reading and commenting on others’ work, but this can be a good way to improve your writing skills as well.
- Ask for help at work. Ask a coworker who writes well to proofread your material. Don’t ask that he/she just fix it, but ask them to explain to you what the problem was. This is a bit tougher, as it will involve getting someone else to commit their time to helping you improve your writing skills. However, if you can find a willing mentor, it certainly works.