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Resumes, Cover Letter, Business Proposals . . .
Grammar and Spell Checks Can Never Replace the Need for Quality Writing
(ARA) - "There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a [keyboard] and open a vein," summed up Pulitzer Prize winning author Walter "Red" Smith. For most people, writing is a laborious task they avoid, a bore, or something they never think about. Yet writing well is critical to success, whether it's a resume, business proposal or master's thesis.
"Let's face it, despite the popularity of non-textual visual media, writing remains important," says Heather Walker, assistant professor of English at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minn. "Much technology, such as Web sites and e-mail, requires writing skills since it's quicker to send an e-mail or skim electronic literature than be caught in a long discussion or lecture. In our competition-driven society, productivity, efficiency and presentation are central, so for a document to be read briefly you must organize and clearly state your message."
Take, for example, the job search. "In today's tight economy, in which even blue-collar job opportunities have multiple applicants, every potential employee needs an edge; writing is that edge. Your first impression is made by your cover letter and resume," Walker maintains.
Business proposals, grant applications and fund-raising letters need to be well written to get a foot in the proverbial door to opportunity. "To write well you consider an audience who may be unsympathetic to your position. You think critically about other perspectives, perhaps humbling yourself to modify your own. You build common ground to reach your reader," she explains.
Excellent writing skills are also a hallmark of leadership ability, a much sought after quality in today's competitive corporate and political climates. "Intelligent, diplomatic leaders are careful thinkers and frequently good writers, such as Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Bill Cosby," Walker points out.
After several years away from the classroom, Jessica Hughes enrolled in FOCUS, Northwestern's degree completion program. "I knew the papers would be challenging. For many of us the spelling and grammar checks on our word processors had long since replaced our memories of high school English. Some of us hadn't written more than a few paragraphs in 10 years, so we had many questions. Where do we begin to research a topic? How do we cite sources? Does the subject agree with the verb? What is a prepositional phrase?"
As part of the FOCUS program, Hughes and her classmates reviewed the basics of grammar, sentence structure, thesis development and documenting research. "The process taught us more than just how to write a paper; we learned how to put thoughts on paper and wrestle them into something that made sense. We learned to read our work critically and make a point succinctly," she says.
Besides writing classes, Walker says the best way to be a good writer is to be a good reader first. "When you read something that strikes you as well written, ask yourself why you think so. What did the writer do that compels you? Stop thinking about what the message is and start thinking about how the writer formed it. Examine the organization (including within paragraphs), the elements of its content and its most gripping words," she explains.
Then start writing! Use your opportunities, not just tasks at work. Write a letter to the editor of your paper or a proposal for a club you're involved in. "Have others constructively critique your writing," Walker suggests. "Find friends or colleagues to tell you how effective they think it is and why. Remember, writing is a process: always, always, re-draft and revise."
Now assistant director of alumni and parent relations at Northwestern, Hughes says becoming an effective communicator made her a better employee, a better manager and a better colleague.
"Whether I am writing a big-dollar proposal, editing a procedure, or just preparing a quick e-mail, the writing skills I learned help me communicate clearly and concisely," Hughes says. "Having a great idea is only the beginning. Being able to express that idea effectively makes all the difference. I have the skills to communicate my ideas, which gives me the confidence to succeed, not just in the classroom, but also in my career and in my life."
Want to improve your writing? Here are some basic rules to help get started.
25 Golden Rules for Writing Well
If these rules confuse you, run (do not walk!) to the nearest bookstore or library to get a copy of "The Elements of Style"* by Strunk & White: you have to start somewhere!
Courtesy of ARA Content
|more employment articles|
> How to Get a Promotion
> How to Prepare a Design Portfolio
> Job Hunting: It's Like a Job, Only Harder
> Resumes and Cover Letters: Quality Writing
> Sample Graphic Design Cover Letters
> Higher Learning Key to Career Advancement
> Rewarding Careers in Animation
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