You might not write novels, poetry, magazine articles, or anything else you intend to publish. But you write.
You may enjoy writing. You may hate it. Either way, writing is important. But why? What are reasons for writing?
Flannery O’Connor wrote, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” That’s reason enough for anyone, but everyone has other, more specific reasons.
Writing for publication
Let’s start with the obvious.
People write books, for newspapers, for magazines, for academic or professional journals, for the web, because they have something to tell other people. It may be fiction, poetry, or non-fiction.
You’re a reader. You might not read academic or professional journals, but you’ve seen all the rest. Most of the time, an editor has looked at it before you ever see it. Professional writers ought to be good writers. Not all of them are.
Don’t you hate reading bad writing? So why write something other people will hate to read?
Writing for school
In elementary school, you learned to write letters. Learning words, sentences, and paragraphs soon followed. Then you had to write essays and stories and poetry.
Writing for school never ends until people leave their last classroom. It might be after high school. It might be after more than one post-graduate degree.
College students majoring in anything but English often question why they have to write all those term papers. And why professors who don’t teach English dare to criticize spelling and grammar. Here are some reasons:
- The professor needs to read the term papers (and essay questions on tests) to know if students have learned the material and thought about it carefully.
- So students need to be able to communicate well in writing to demonstrate that they understand what they have read and heard.
- Students expect to find a job. Which means writing job applications and cover letters to persuade employers that they’re worth interviewing.
- Prospective employers often require strong oral and written communication skills.
- Bad grammar, bad spelling, bad punctuation, and general disregard for the conventions of good writing indicate even more than lack of good communication skills. They give the impression of carelessness, negligence, and possibly even lack of intelligence.
In addition, the very act of writing a formal paper encourages critical thinking. It refines the writers’ ideas and ability to explain them. It encourages the construction of arguments to articulate opinions calmly and rationally. It even helps one become a better reader and better at oral communication.
Writing for work
Businesses produce advertisements. They send out reports, newsletters, and so on to customers and employees.
Someone has to write that stuff. It’s actually another way of writing for publication.
Many businesses apply for grants. Grant writing requires special skills.
What are some other ways people have to write for work?
- Plans and progress reports to superiors
- Annual reports of accomplishments
- Instructions to peers and lower-level staff
- Minutes at meetings
- Requests for, well, all kinds of things
- Emails to other people in the company
- Work-related emails to people outside the company
- Participation in work-related social media
Writing is important at work. What are the chances of promotion, or even keeping the job, for people who can’t write at least reasonably well?
Writing for friends and family
Once upon a time, people kept in touch with friends and family by writing letters. It’s not completely a lost art, but with cheap long distance, email, social media, and smart phones, writing letters has become less common.
But notice that except for talking on the phone, all of those new technologies require writing. Here are some other ways we write to other people apart from school or work:
- Notes and reminders to family members, since not everyone is home at the same time.
- Notes to teachers
- Comments on social media
- Letters to the editor of a newspaper or magazine
- Letters to Congress or other politicians
It’s kind of useless to observe all the niceties of spelling and sentence structure in a text message. Otherwise, the last bullet point under writing for school still applies. You don’t want your Facebook friends to see you as careless, negligent, or unintelligent, do you?
And if you’re a parent, you ought to be a good example for your children. Why not write to them like you’ve put some thought into it?
Writing for yourself
How many times have you read or heard that you should keep a journal?
Now, some people have written journals for posterity. They intend for children or grandchildren to read them.
Or perhaps they have known (or at least thought) that some publisher would make them available to the whole world.
But mostly, no one else will read someone else’s journal. So why write it?
Flannery O’Connor’s reason for writing applies to every level of writing in this post.
You write a journal to get to know yourself better. It helps you refine what you think and feel. Plus, if you know you’re going to write something at the end of the day, it’s an incentive to pay more attention along the way.
And if no one else reads it, you will.
Has the dream you had a few years ago come true? Or are you still working on it? Or did you forget all about it?
We all change over time. Your journal will tell you whether you like the changes.
Memories can become hazy. But if you wrote about them, you can find what you wrote and read it again. Your journal can help you relive the best moments of your past, and help you realize that the worst ones are behind you.
Even when you’re writing for yourself, respect yourself enough to use good English.
Why do you write?
Whether you’re writing a term paper, a book, or just your journal, writing is important enough to do it well. So read and follow these 31 tips to improve your writing skills.