On the Evolution of Work Systems in the Digital Economy
On Becoming a Better Writer
Does using text-speak erode our writing skills? There has been much debate regarding this issue. While investigating various opinions, I was surprised by the following statements at Northhampton Community College’s site:
According to a recent survey, employers would rather hire workers over 50 than those under 30. This survey indicates that respondents stated older workers are more professional and have better writing skills than their younger counterparts. 46% of respondents stated younger workers needed to improve their writing skills versus just 9% for workers over 50.
The slow demise of the English language is nothing new. People have been lamenting the use of poor grammar and writing skills for years. However, it seems that the use of Instant Messaging (IM) and Texting has accelerated this decline to a record pace. Is new technology to blame? There is evidence that supports that conclusion.
Still, there are many dissenting voices (see here, here, here, or here). Sometimes I think a simple “WTF?!” suffices as a response to a work-related issue. However, I’ve never given in to the temptation to mix text-speak with formal writing in work-related correspondences. Hence, I side with those saying that people are generally adept at preventing text-speak from leaking into their professional writing. Furthermore, I’m not sure that poor writing skills that’re supposedly fostered when young students mingle text-speak with formal writing can be blamed on texting.
Although I mastered the basic rules for writing well in school, my writing didn’t garner any notice. It wasn’t until after finishing my formal education in my early 30’s that I was able to take my writing to the next level as I finally had freedom, spare time, and energy to devote to this. Yes, that’s right. I can’t give formal education or any English teachers substantial credit because, to affirm Dr. Peter Gray’s thesis, institutionalized, other-directed education was an insufferably disengaging experience in my view (and I must point out that my time in school predates texting).
In truth, I think the path to becoming a great writer begins with a genuine desire to do so, a passion for reading, and a great sense of self-direction as well as the opportunity to exercise it. So, in my opinion, deterioration of writing skill probably has more to do with lack of interest in writing than habitual texting. Without sufficient interest in learning to write, anything can become a welcome distraction. However, take into consideration that being able to write well enhances your professional image. For those who want to know how I improved my writing, I offer the following tips:
- Voraciously read the work of great writers and allow yourself to be guided by whatever subjects interest you. If you love to read, this the most enjoyable and engaging way to learn how to write well. With continuous exposure to good writing, your mind will absorb the various lessons that school teachers tried to impart the boring way.
- When examining your writing for excessive repetition, don’t just inspect up-close. Back away just a little and look at your writing from further away. This is a lesson I learned as an artist which I’ve applied to writing as well. Up-close inspections are great for checking details but backing away and viewing your work in its entirety helps clue you in on problems that you wouldn’t have spotted up-close. In writing, reading your work line-by-line is great for spotting specific places in which you’ve overused a word (such as ending a sentence with one word and then using that same word to begin the next sentence). However, by backing up and inspecting your work from afar you can also spot other patterns like beginning every paragraph with the same word or a habit of beginning sentences the same way (like with the pronoun “I”).
- Forgive yourself when you make mistakes and remember that improving your writing takes time. Embrace the fact that you’ll commit some flubs along the way. Being too hard on yourself for making mistakes can prevent you from doing what you need to do in order to improve. In other words, keep writing!
If you also have tips for improving writing, please share them in the comments section!