Writing Skills

What are writing skills?  How does one develop writing skills?  

Part of the answer to that lies in how much you read.  The whole package can be called literacy, perhaps, because literacy comprises both reading and writing – and the ability to communicate through the written word.

This topic can be defined as the ability to put down in written form a message that is clear and easy to read.   

Your reader is not likely to want to “work” to be able to understand your message.  If you can accomplish that goal, and prepare a written document with ease, you will be a very happy individual.  Your reader will thank you.

So, learning and improving your writing skills is a very worthwhile endeavour if you wish to communicate well.

…and back to the original question:   What are writing skills?  …and how does one develop writing skills?  

Language skills.  First of all, know and understand some language skills. 

If you are writing in English, then it’s important to understand basic language skills, basic sentence structure, basic grammar skills, and basic punctuation and spelling.  You must also understand your audience, and your audience’s ability to understand the language you are using.

Connotation.  When you have a choice of words in your writing, choose carefully because some words may have a connotation (or suggested meaning) that is not the same for other words. 

An example of difference in connotation might be the following:

  • Slim
  • Skinny
  • Svelte
  • In shape
  • Anorexic

Slim.  The first term, slim, is a compliment. 

Skinny.  The second, not so much a compliment. 

Svelte.  The third, also a compliment, but not easily understood by everyone. 

In shape.  The fourth has a similar meaning but with an added component. 

Anorexic.  The final term is definitely not a compliment and has a negative connotation. 

Those terms are all relating to one’s physical size – but as you see, they all have different “connotations.”

Be careful to make the correct choice of words to convey the accurate meaning you wish to communicate.

Know your audience.  Write so that your reader will understand you.  If you are writing for a sophisticated audience, use sophisticated terminology.  If you are writing for a group of young children, then use simple language and simple and short sentences. 

Write succinctly and clearly, regardless of the audience. 

Prepare a rough draft.  One strategy I use when planning an article, is to write it out in rough first.  Generally, my message appears at the end – or about three-quarters of the way through my writing.  It’s then that I realize exactly what that main point is, and I move it right to the start of the article. 

From that point, it’s a relatively easy task to revise the rough draft into a much more succinct and logical presentation.    But that is possible only when I realize exactly what is the main point – and that main point doesn’t appear until I’ve prepared the rough draft.  The final article will have fewer words, will be much more meaningful, and will be a very good presentation.

I’ve created the rough draft first – and then I’ve revised it.  You cannot expect to write clearly and effectively the first time through!

Outside assistance.  When writing, there are many aids that you can use that were not available many years ago.  The computer age has made everything so much easier than it used to be. 

One caution:  Do not rely exclusively on the outside assistance – the spellchecks and the grammar checks.  You can trust them only so far.  Judge the overall result for yourself using your logical viewpoint and your own common sense to end up with the best writing possible.

  • We've talked about connotation, and choosing your language carefully.
  • We’ve talked about writing a rough draft and editing it – maybe several times – before you have a final and finished copy.
  • We’ve talked about the necessity of understanding basic language skills.

Additional writing skills

Always put yourself in the reader’s position.  Do not assume that your reader knows about your topic before you begin writing.  If you start writing with that premise, then you will be more likely to begin “at the beginning.”

You’ll need to write an introduction, the main message, and then the conclusion or summary.

Introduction.  Provide an introduction to everything you do.  Regardless of the topic, introduce the topic first – and maybe even “define” the topic – clearly for your reader. 

In this case, the topic is “writing skills.”  What are writing skills?  That’s how I started this particular article. 

Main message.  After your introduction, provide the main message.  Provide the main message clearly so that the reader can follow easily with understanding.  Write in short sentences and short paragraphs.  Make the important information jump from the page.  You can achieve that goal with formatting – short sentences, short paragraphs, and active voice.

Summarize.  Summarize the main message at the end, reminding your reader what you’ve presented.  That review will help the reader.

How can you develop writing skills?  You can accomplish some growth through practice. 

Reading.  However, reading will help you develop your understanding of what may or may not be good language. 

Magazines.  If you wish to improve your vocabulary, choose magazines that are known for excellent writers.  Time Magazine is one of those magazines.  The writers write for an intelligent audience, and use excellent vocabulary terms.  I heartily recommend having – and using – a dictionary as you read. 

The dictionary.  The dictionary is something that I love to read!  It may sound “corny” but if you can enjoy words, and language, you will learn a great deal by looking at the dictionary from time to time.

Latin root words.  A study of Latin will help you increase your vocabulary.  Many of our English words come from other languages, but Latin is one language that has provided many of our English words.  If you know and understand the Latin roots, you can increase your English word understanding quickly and rather easily. 

With a concerted effort, you can achieve any goal you wish to achieve.  I hope I’ve given you a good start here.

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