The Write Stuff

Posted April 13, 2012, by Mike Kermode

All businesses and occupations depend on writing and clear communication to function. Think about all the emails, letters and reports that you and your colleagues write each day, and how important it is to get your message across clearly to avoid confusion and misunderstanding.

Not only that – you, your intelligence and your professionalism will be judged by the quality of your writing. In today’s business environment, being able to write well is crucial to success, and no one can afford to write poorly or sloppily. It’s simply unprofessional.

For some, writing is more than just a means to communicate with colleagues and clients – it is the job, it’s your bread and butter, so you need to be able to string words together confidently, coherently and creatively.

Why everyone needs to write well

Writing is everywhere. It’s one of the main ways in which we make the world meaningful, how we attempt to understand and talk about it. From novels to toaster instructions, poetry to pasta sauce ingredients; writing gives the world around us meaning. It’s also one of the main ways that we communicate with others, especially in the workplace.

It pays to take the time and effort to learn to write well – and that applies to everyone. Becoming a good writer not only makes you a better communicator, able to express yourself more clearly so that people understand you, but also assists you to become a more astute thinker.

George Orwell, writing in the middle of last century, linked sloppy language to sloppy thinking. ‘[Language]’, he wrote, ‘becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible’.

That means there’s hope for all of us – all it takes is a bit of effort and instruction. And unless you’re in a job where you can slowly nurture your skills as a writer, the best and fastest way to improve your language and communication skills is to take a writing course or communications course.

Writing for a living

There are a host of roles where those with good language skills and creative flair can make a living with clear, punchy and catchy writing.

Journalism is an obvious choice for those who enjoy conveying a good story with style and accuracy. Be it for online media, radio, newspapers, magazines or television, journalists depend on well-written words to convey clear, digestible messages to audiences everywhere.

Public relations is another avenue for those with a flair for written communications. The success of PR professionals depends on their ability to craft convincing and creative content on behalf of organisations, and their skill at this can make the difference between positive or negative perceptions of an organisation or product. PR falls under the general category of communications, and communications professionals are needed in every industry to communicate with media, social media and internally within organisations.

Advertising and marketing use words to sway people’s decision-making. Creative, catchy copy can be the key to successful sales and branding, and those with the right knack can enjoy a fun, challenging and lucrative career. Is there a slogan or catchphrase that you can’t get out of your head? Blame those clever advertising and marketing writers.

Publishing is another field where you can put your shrewd writing as well as editing skills to good use. You’ll need an impeccable grasp of the English language, right down to spelling, grammar, syntax and overall structure, and a pedantic nature doesn’t hurt. Editors and sub-editors need to have the talent to pick up a typo or grammatical error, and suggest alternative wording or structure that could have a substantial impact on the finished product. Not surprisingly, many English, journalism and communications graduates wind up working in the publishing industry.

Writing as a creative outlet

For all those who write for a living, there’s a host of others who write simply for the joy of it, to express themselves creatively or who secretly hope to write the Great Australian Novel. Or at least make their fortunes writing the next Twilight or Harry Potter series.

Being a creative writer can mean any number of things: short story writer, memoir writer, journal writer, songwriter, poet. Whatever the case, you use the written word to tell your story, and there’s a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from that. You just need to hone the right – and write – skills.

Whether it’s writing poetry for small local publications, writing your own memoirs or plugging away at a slow-burn novel in the hope that it may one day be published, there are thousands of writers out there for whom writing is an enjoyable pastime, a source of entertainment and self-fulfilment.

Writing courses

Depending on who you’re writing for, and why – to boost your professional communication skills, to get you a job writing for your favourite newspaper or to help you become the next J K Rowling, different courses will be appropriate.

Creative writing courses will teach you how to research, how to edit your own work, how to structure a piece of writing, how to develop characters, and in some cases, how to market your writing to publishers or editors.

Don’t think that this kind of writing is the domain of the young aspirational writer, either. Creative writing courses are full of mature-aged students looking to change careers, or hone half-nurtured writing skills to pen ideas and stories rooted in life experience.

For those who want to write for a living, courses in communications, journalism, PR, advertising and marketing will all help you to become a more skilled and effective writer so you can perform your job with panache.

Write away

Taking a writing course can open up a range of professions not limited to pure ‘writing’ jobs. When you write well, you’ll be able to excel and advance in your chosen career, and express yourself like a true professional.

Mike Kermode

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