This might surprise you coming from a writer, but writing is really hard. Good writing, that is. Bad writing is easy, and unfortunately, it’s everywhere – probably because it takes a lot less effort, focus, and care.
I didn’t major in journalism or English or creative writing in college. Believe it or not, my major was accounting. But even before I wrote for a living, I remember back in my accounting and finance days being so surprised by the many smart people who could get away with writing poorly.
Sounds like I’m contradicting myself already, right? If we can get away with mediocre writing skills and still make it in the world, why bother improving? I could give you a million reasons, but I’ll whittle them down to what I think are the most important, no matter who you are. Here are five reasons why you should improve your writing and communication skills:
- Bad writing confuses people. This is obvious, but how many times have we read something – instructions, an article, a description of a company – that’s just plain confusing. Some topics are complex, sure, but good writing explains even the most complex information in a way that most can understand. When you write something, read it out loud, then ask yourself, “Did that make sense? What am I trying to say? Am I saying it?”
- Presenting yourself well in writing will help you get a job. We’ve all learned from the current economy that it takes more than a good attitude and some decent experience to get a job these days. So when it comes to your résumé, don’t forget its importance. This is, quite literally, your first impression on a prospective employer. Shouldn’t it be awesome? Don’t you want someone to read it and think, “This person is impressive,” and/or, “Sounds like he/she has what it takes to do well here,” and/or, “I like what I see so far – I should call him/her up for an interview.” Of course you do! Don’t put yourself out of the running with a so-so (or bad) résumé, an unconvincing introductory email or cover letter, or any other piece of communication that makes you sound less great than you are.
- Writing poorly makes you seem unintelligent. Ouch. I know it’s harsh, but it’s true. Whether it’s a prospective employer or a professor, a sure-fire way to give someone the impression that you lack intellect is to send them an email that is full of typos, hand in a paper that is unclear and not compelling, or send over a résumé that doesn’t present you in the very best light possible. I once had a great coworker who had many talents but was probably the worst writer/communicator I’ve ever met. We were in a business where our first impression was often made via email, and this person’s emails were an absolute embarrassment, even though the person was quite capable in other areas. Learning to present yourself in writing matters. How can you expect others to take you seriously if your writing is bad?
- Bad writing negatively impacts your business. Day in, day out, I work with companies that need help honing their message and, in almost all cases, sounding more convincing. It’s not that these clients haven’t been marketing themselves already, but many of them could be doing it so much better. Poorly worded marketing collateral will not help you, and more likely, will diminish your brand and make you seem careless.
- Bad writing gets ignored. Whether you’re trying to craft a compelling argument, sell yourself, or promote your business, if it’s bad, people just won’t listen. And why should they? Write it well, write it clearly, and speak to your audience. Otherwise people just won’t buy what you’re selling (literally and figuratively).
So, now we know why good writing matters. How can you improve your writing? Well, that’s another blog post (or several) for another day. For now, remind yourself when you’re in a hurry or thinking, “Eh – good enough,” that writing well is important. Take the time to improve your skills. I’m not saying it will be easy, but I promise that you will never regret it.
Do you have some writing tips? Share them below.