Writing well is a needed skill


Image from J. Paxon Reyes on Flickr.

I’ve written before about being a teaching assistant for an Introduction to Mass Communication course during graduate school. I’ve also written before about the poorly written essays, paragraphs and just simple sentences and phrases that I had to grade.

Now, I was a book nerd who loved English class, so reading and writing well came easily to me, because I liked it. My husband, on the other hand, hated English class. Yet, even he is astounded at the bad grammar and poor spelling he sees in emails at his company and what he sees online. While he’s not the world’s most fantastic speller, he knew it was important to communicate effectively, and that means being able to write well.

Some people blame texting and tweeting for the multitude of misspelled words out there. Shorthand has become important to us now in the era of 40 characters or less. (Newsflash: shorthand was always important, to journalists, secretaries and anyone who had to take notes, but I digress.) With the constant exposure to misspelled words and incorrect spelling of words (think: “Your on the road to success) will obviously lead to more misspelled and incorrect spellings of words.

I, however, think it goes deeper. With all of the emphasis being placed on math and science in schools, we’re missing out on needed time for learning English, grammar and spelling. My mother works at an elementary school, and she says between the hours that are needed for computer classes, music, art, physical education and other classes, it’s a wonder the students spend any time in the classroom at all. Not that those classes aren’t important, but the time left to spend in the classroom is dedicated to math and science, with less and less focusing on spelling and learning their native language.

I’m not saying, again, that math and science aren’t important. They are. We need the people who enjoy math and science to become our engineers and developers of tomorrow. However, before they get into deep math and science, there is a profound need to be able to read and write in English, don’t they? How will they communicate an important scientific discovery if they can’t communicate about it? Doesn’t better reading and writing skills lead to a better understanding of everything else?

According to the Spokesman Review, a national exam released in the fall of 2012 said only a quarter of 8th and 12th grade students have solid writing skills, even when using spell-check and other computer word-processing programs. So three out of four students didn’t know how to form their thoughts into words properly. If you are unable to form your ideas into words, phrases, sentences and pages in a way that other people can easily understand, how are you going to succeed?

According to a page on Carnegie Mellon University’s web site about why students write poorly:

“In a study at George Washington University (2007), first-year undergraduates reported that the most frequently assigned high school writing tasks required them to offer and support opinions, with a secondary emphasis on summarizing and synthesizing information. Students were rarely required to criticize an argument, define a problem and propose a solution, shape their writing to meet their readers’ needs, or revise based on feedback. Furthermore, according to a survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education (2006), 61% of high school teachers said their students have never written a paper that was more than five pages. As a result, students have not had enough practice to develop a set of sophisticated writing skills.”

I could go on about this subject for hours (and will, if you really want to hear it). The point of my post is that when you’re out in the world, writing things online or in email or even on paper, people judge you on your writing. In my opinion, it’s like being able to speak well in front of a group of people. If you are confident and sound like you know what you’re talking about, people will listen to you. The same goes when they read something you’ve written.

**On a side note, there are apps out there for everything. There’s even one that helps middle school students write essays.

I'm a lover of writing and books. I graduated from South Dakota State with a master's degree in communications in 2011, the same year I was first published. I'm a wife and mom, and I work in content and digital marketing in South Dakota.

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