Why everyone should learn to write well

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Photo by Alexa Mazzarello on Unsplash

Without written communication, language would be lost in a dark alley trying to find its way back. The ability to construct sentences that are clear, concise, and easy to comprehend, is underrated and rare. In this post-literate world that we live in, the written word has more value than it ever did before. The internet has made it so easy to exchange ideas and grow beyond our immediate environment. But our words fall on deaf ears when we cannot communicate our thoughts well. Miscommunication and misunderstanding – the two pillars of a bad relationship, are built on one bad conversation.

It is important for everyone to learn to write well. The skill of writing is not reserved for the professionals. Writing is an accessible medium to navigate the world with our words alone. People who don’t understand each other cannot have a healthy exchange of ideas. We cannot see through the eyes of the another person. Our world remains narrow, closed, and often prejudiced. Good writing is all about thought, language and form. A solid combination of these three can make a good writer out of anyone.

The idea of putting pen to paper is one of mankind’s greatest discoveries. Without it, there would just be speech. And that’s volatile, fragile. Lost.

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Beyond the physical act of putting pen to paper, writing is a powerful tool that we must use correctly. With oral communication on the rise – audiobooks, podcasts, videos, voicemail, voice assistants – the written word is limited to books and writers. The medium of communication has changed so drastically that handwritten letters and postcards have turned into a rare novelty. Short form writing has taken over the reins with broken sentences, internet acronyms, and text-speak that has given rise to the new global language of emojis. With every passing generation, the definition of ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ keeps changing.

In our daily lives, we read and write in spurts – short bursts of texts, tweets, emails, blog posts, news updates, and the rest. In a way, being concise is good – it is a challenge to be able to say what you mean in a limited number of words. But because of the quick and sporadic means of communication, we’ve lost the ability to slow down, think deep, filter thoughts, and frame complete and meaningful sentences. This is not to say that the written word is decaying. It has existed and evolved over centuries from more symbolic and pictographic writing systems to hieroglyphics to the modern alphabetic scripts we use today. It has changed form, and while new literacies continue to emerge with digital media, the fundamentals of language and the written script must not be neglected. Research confirms that we are already walking down the path to a global writing crisis.

All good writing is rewriting, and this cannot be stressed on enough. A good, clear sentence is not an accident but the product of hard work and several rewrites. But who edits these days? Who has the time to reread what they’ve written, when there’s so much more content thrown at them that they need to skim through, like, share and subscribe to?

The biggest change that electronic media has brought to the form of writing is brevity and instancy. “TL;DR” sums up online literacy for us. It is important to understand that the difference between speech and writing is the pause – the break in thought that enables you to chew on the idea, construct a sentence, and structure it well enough so that the gap between thought and understanding is reduced as much as possible.

Those who can write well have the power to communicate without restraint. Their perspective is bigger, stronger, and their world is smaller, more accessible and easy to manoeuvre.

Writing is a complex cognitive activity. Educators and policy-makers need to redefine what constitutes literacy and improve the quality of learning and writing for our young learners. Relying more on research and less on traditional learning techniques, it requires collective effort to provide writing instruction in the areas of composition, critical literacy, and style. 

The written word has the power to penetrate the mind and bring about perpetual reform. To write well, we need to read in abundance, become eternal learners and make a habit of writing everyday. Technology has provided us with a treasure of resources to support our learning, so let us go back to the basics, practice this beautiful craft and make our thoughts visible to the world.

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