To this day I am astounded (and befuddled) by the number of brilliant graduates fresh out of college with top-notch degrees ready to seize the working world, and yet, come across as nincompoops because they fail to write in a way that compels their readers to want to know anything more about them. If you find you are part of this notorious “writing nitwit” group, but would like to distance yourself from their ranks, then you might want to subscribe to a few pointers which can easily be implemented between breakfast and lunch.
The US World and News Report (February 22, 2013), reported that the “ability to write” is one of the Top 7 skills sought by employers.
The need to write more gooder is most apparent for those who think their ability to send 3,400 texts a month automatically qualifies them as top contenders for key job positions (by the way, this is the average number of texts sent by cell phone owners between the ages of 18 and 24, according to a Pew Internet study). Here’s a little test – do you believe “u din nite k?” is an appropriate rendition of “Would you like to have dinner with me tonight?” If so, you’re a worthy candidate for this article’s topic. Or, you’re 13 years old hoping your mom will take you to meet up with your best pal at the fast food joint down the street.
The thing about writing is this – just a few years ago, the US World and News Report (February 22, 2013) reported that employers were seeking seven top skills from job candidates with the “ability to write” smack dab in the middle of their list.
Despite the emphasis in the news about the need for computer literacy, an individual’s prowess in the written word (actual literacy) is fast becoming a lost cause, not to mention a lost art. Schools fall prey to the notion that grammar (in general) and writing in cursive (to be specific) are both passé.
Don’t misunderstand me. It’s not that I’m a card-carrying-member of the grammar geek squad – far from it (example: I love using parentheses in the midst of a sentence like this one). And yet, I find that pausing for a quick moment to think about where to place that comma, and a few moments more to give thoughtful consideration as to whether or not my message is clear versus dumb-dumb (as the Easter Island statue character in the family movie – Night at the Museum would say), are a few seconds well spent.
With help from grammar author, Patricia T. O’Conner, follow five “more gooder” lessons below to immediately improve your writing.
Lesson One: Be aware of the self-ish. Don’t say this “Sam and myself went to the ballgame yesterday.” (Make that Sam and I). And don’t write this “The project’s success was celebrated by the team and myself.” (Celebrated by the team and me.)
Lesson Two: Know how to use the terms they’re and their. The term they’re is the conjunction of they are. Use it accordingly as in “They’re all in the meeting room” versus their, which implies the possessive, as in belonging to a group. Instead, use “They left their laptops in the office.” Not that I advocate relying entirely on the fact that Microsoft Window’s 10 contains an updated version of Word, but I do like that it includes a more sophisticated grammar correction feature. It’s a handy reference tool.
Lesson Three: Pay attention to it’s versus its. Consider this example “Her coat is too gaudy because of its rhinestones.” It’s is short for it is. The apostrophe replaces the missing i in is. The cat is meowing because it’s time to feed him. When in doubt, try this rule (as put forward by Patricia T. O’Conner) “If the word you want could be replaced by it is, use it’s. If not, use its.”
Lesson Four: When writing emails, think of a few well-appointed bullets on a PowerPoint slide. Distill your email ideas into succinct statements. The quicker you can get to the main message (without being completely rude), the higher the probability readers will get the gist. Besides, who wants to waste time deciphering your email meaning?
Lesson Five: Spend a couple of bucks and purchase Woe is I – The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia T. O’Conner. You’ll be writing more gooder in no time at all!
For more information on communication tips and techniques, take the “Say it Smart Series” as part of ZBglobal’s LifeCollaborative eLearning professional development series. Contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.