Growing up, I was never concerned with writing. I figured as long as my point came across, that was all I needed.
But now, with a little experience under my belt and a small pinch of education, I’ve realized that good writing is not a nice skill to have; it’s essential to any successful career. Even people in business need strong writing abilities. And, from what I’ve read from various sources, there’s little good writing in the world.
Now, when I say “good” writing, I don’t simply mean using good grammar. Grammar, quite frankly, is a loosely defined set of rules where exceptions exist for seemingly no particular reason. Using proper grammar doesn’t guarantee a good piece of writing.
A long, convoluted sentence could be grammatically correct, but nonetheless is confusing to the reader. Being clear and concise are just as, if not more, important as having good grammar. It’s in this area that most people struggle.
And it’s not just journalists or novelists who need to be good writers: scientists and researchers must have strong writing skills as well. If a scientist discovered a new ground-breaking theory, it isn’t worth much if they can’t effectively communicate it with the rest of the scientific community. The same goes for nearly all fields. A lawyer may be an expert in the intricate details of statue or ruling. It won’t amount to much if they can’t argue it in a brief.
While there are numerous suggestions for good writing, here are a few tips I recommend.
First, find a writing idol. Mine is the late Christopher Hitchens. I may not agree with every word he wrote, but I strive to emulate the way he writes. He has amazing clarity and precision, yet isn’t dry. His works are enjoyable to read and always provide an insightful point of view.
Second, develop a personal style. Plagiarism is usually thought of as copying someone else’s work. I think you can plagiarize someone’s style as well. It’s important to develop a personal style of writing, unique to one’s own individuality. When a reader can identify the author just from the cadence, phrasing and word choice, the author has good style. “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk and E.B. White is a fantastic little book I’ve been reading on how to improve style.
Third, write a lot. Writing is an art, and mastery requires practice, a lot of practice. The rule of thumb I was taught is write every day. I’m guilty of not always following this rule, but I’ve noticed my writing improving the more often I put words on paper. The first few drafts will be rough — I’ve cringed after reading my earlier works — but keep working at it.
There will be a day when a sense of pride comes with writing. I know I’ve felt it.