One of the most underrated skills in anyone’s arsenal is the ability to write both coherently, and with the right level of impact. This doesn’t mean you need to be able to write a novel, but you should be able to write a decent email to your troops, a professional sounding complaint letter, or a thoughtful blog post.
There a number of reasons why you should be a decent writer. Not all of them are about conveying a message, some of them are how you are perceived by your audience, or your colleagues.
The first, for me, is about the perception of yourself to the individual / audience you are writing to. If you’re trying to gain their trust, or motivate them to follow you, how are you ever going to do that if you can’t spell, or use basic grammar and syntax? It’s the all important first impression that can win, or lose you the acceptance of that person.
The second is the ability to constuct your thoughts in the clearest manner. This is the hardest thing for humans to achieve without the ability to mind-meld: sharing your ideas with another person in a way that they will be able to understand. Being a good writer will allow you to understand how to structure your thoughts so you can share them from start to finish.
Thirdly, the written word is the most powerful way to store the collective knowledge of the human race. Writing something down not only helps to solidify the idea in your own mind, but it is also something that you can look back over, or share with others. Instead of needing to say all of that again with every person you wish to share those thoughts with, you can simply hand them, or send them something that is the entirety of your idea. It’s also something that can live on without you.
I was never great at many subjects in school, partly due to my style of learning, but mostly due to the abysmal approach so many of my teachers took to behaving with me. Maybe it’s the prejudice that comes with teaching for so long, with so many kids not automatically interested with what you have to teach them.
I turned out alright in the end and have surpassed the better students in my abilities and career. Maybe there’s something to explore in further depth there.
But, something that struck me a few years ago was how badly I was taught about my own language. I have picked up a natural understanding of the structure, and have a pretty good vocabulary, but I couldn’t tell you what an adjective, or a split infinitive is. That’s the next step in my understanding of the English language.
I can’t tell you how to use grammer properly, but I can advise you to read my articles with a more critical eye. Notice where I am placing commas, semi-colons, and how I am structuring sentences. You should also read a lot more of the great writers (anything that’s not trash writing, like Fifty Shades of Grey, Da Vinci Code).
But, it’s not just the mechanics of writing you need to understand, it’s your voice that needs to be carefully considered. The way I write is my attempt to ensure that the voice I am trying to convey really comes through. I am trying to force my readers to read my writing in such a way that they cannot but hear this voice in their minds, or aloud if they choose to read my stories and articles to their dog. The rules of English can be bent and broken, Neo, if it leads to you best delivering your message – and not looking like an idiot. I only do this in the interest of my voice being heard.
I believe that accessibility is one of the most important aspects to writing. Not only is this to ensure that the most readers have a chance of making it to the end of your writing, but it’s also the best way to ensure that your true meaning is understood, and with the most impact.
So what do I mean by accessibility? I mean not choosing to only speak with long words. This might make you sound intelligent, but it will have everyone reaching for their dictionaries, instead of nodding their heads in agreement. Sometimes, hippopotomonstrosososquipadalianism is not beneficial to you. That long word? It means a liking for long words.
Write in a near conversational tone and the world will love you. Write like a lawyer and your readers minds will turn inside out.
Style is just as important as voice and structure. I see this as the way you structure your sentences and paragraphs, as well as the bolding and italicising of words. Good writing is not just about the words you use, but it should also be pleasing to the eye. Paragraphs should not be gigantic blocks of text (unless intended for some reason), and you can do a lot to emphasise something by singling it out as a paragraph of it’s own.
The final aspect of writing that I want to highlight is the most frequently neglected aspect. Editing. It’s alright putting your thoughts down on the page, but unless you’re going to correct those spelling, grammatical, and styling issues, it’s just the same as not investing any time in writing. Take the time to re-read your work, and you’ll be a step ahead of the rest.
If you would like to have your name on something well written, but you lack the ability, or time to learn, then you can either choose to say everything, or you can value the written word and ask someone else to do this for you, or invest in a good writer.
Do not underestimate the power of writing well, both for your own development, and for the people you lead, or want to attract. Do not allow your strength in person be let down by the weakness of the words you choose to write down.