The Importance of Writing Skills
Epale readers are becoming fully aware of the importance of functional literacy as a basis for Adult Learning, but somehow it seems that when we discuss literacy we forget it has to do with two connected skills, reading and writing. We do need to focus on writing, even if, for natural reasons, this skill is not part of tests like PIAAC. Experience shows, however, that it is easier to motivate learners to develop their reading than their writing. Satya Brink, from Canada, has written a blog directed to the learners, explaining why they need to focus on their writing skills.
The importance of writing skills
Written communication is an exceptional characteristic of the human species. Over hundreds of years, writing has helped individuals to inform, collaborate and alert other, while societies benefitted from written history, culture and knowledge. In our time, how you successfully use the gift of writing, depends on you.
Writing is a life skill, not only an essential job-related skill, because it is often the basis upon which others judge your learning, your values, your ideas and your contribution to society. Regardless of your career or occupation, everyone has to write to communicate with others, whether it is a friendly email, a formal business memo, a report, a job application, a press release or a message of condolence. Your writing skills determine if you receive the desired reaction from your reader. Did you inform, persuade, calm or entertain as you hoped? The effectiveness of your communication can affect your daily life and your life course outcomes. So, miscommunication can have serious consequences and unintended effects.
Writing is personal. It represents us when we are absent in space and in time. Writing expresses who we are, even after our life time. It makes our knowledge, our personal aspirations and our work for the future visible to others. Writing is the means to explain our ideas to ourselves and to others while preserving our personal experiences and our memories. No one else can do it for you. In this way, writing connects you with yourself. Writing is not fleeting; it is permanent. It is a record of what you wished to communicate at a point in time.
Writing enables you to reach a much larger audience, in many places and over time. Keep this in mind, if you want an on-line presence. If writing was judiciously planned, thoughtfully written and designed for the intended readers, it lives on in the minds of those who read it. If you are reading this and it made sense to you, it means that the writer directed the message to you.
How writing helps you to develop
To write well, you must organize your thoughts, explain your arguments, present your supporting evidence and lead your reader to a shared conclusion. If the reader disagrees, he or she should be able to find each of your arguments for rebuttal. Writing enables you to vividly recall past events, describe a special experience or sell a vision. You rely on critical thought in your conceptualization, on clear articulation through choice of words and structure and on effective sharing of information by writing for the reader, not just yourself. Writing harnesses the transformative power of the written word to improve your life and to change the world around you.
Good writing targets the reading audience. It is adapted to the medium: Digital or print? Formal or informal? Light or serious? The task is accomplished if the message is communicated clearly but it is effective, if it is remembered. Skilled writing produces a response in the reader by stimulating thought, evoking an emotion and stirring to action. It is the reason you read a favourite book a second time.
Improve writing skills
Thankfully, writing is a skill which can be learned like any other. Furthermore, the learned skill will serve you all your life.
- Read widely. Reading a variety of material will help to grow your vocabulary and introduce you to different styles of expression. If you read an unfamiliar word, look it up. Your reading vocabulary is larger than your written one, but you can work to reduce the gap between them by using the new words you learn in your writing.
- Capture your ideas in writing. This requires strategic thinking in order to sharpen your focus to make ideas clearly understood.
- Practice. The more you write, the easier it will be to develop a personal style that is recognizable. Like most skills, practice will make writing easier and more effective.
- Target your communication. Keep your reader in mind when writing. Careful choice of appropriate words and selection of the right length of communication will help to discipline your writing.
- Rely on good writing practices. Always read what you have written before sending it to others. A good trick is to read your work aloud, when many of its shortcoming become evident. Correct your spelling and grammatical errors. Check for organization of ideas, sentence structure and logic flow in paragraphs. Will your readers understand your message and respond the way you wish? Will you be happy with your writing if you read it much later?
- Examine examples. Reading the Curriculum vitae of others can show you the best way to showcase your own skills and job experiences.
- Benefit from responses and feedback. Readers responses provide valuable lessons for future writing. Questions can show you where the message was not clear. Thank readers when they quote you, repeat your message or share your writing with others.
Remember that the process of writing should be enjoyable. Writing is serious business when its impact is important. But write also for fun, taking pleasure in a turn of phrase, a touch of humour and word play. Writing skills will then come naturally to you. When you write your name under what you wrote, you should experience a feeling of accomplishment.
Satya Brink is currently an international consultant, specializing in Educational Research, Policy Analyses and Strategic Policy Advice. She was the director of the National Learning Policy Research team of the Canadian Government (2003-2010). She was also the co-chair of the OECD Governing Board for PIAAC, also known as the Survey of Adult skills. She is widely published and she has presented research papers and key note addresses to international academic, government and professional audiences in five continents.