This is part one of a three-part series.
As you know, Writing Power’s tagline is “write better, live better.” Correspondingly, I thought I would take a little time to provide evidence in support of that tagline. The following are some tangible ways that the time you invest in improving your writing skills will pay off in your life.
1. Writing Well Can Make You Money. No, I’m not talking about blogging for cash or making a living as a journalist (although, of course, those can be options for skilled writers). There is a correlation between written communication skills and income, and it holds true for all knowledge workers, not just those who write for a living. Whether you work as a web designer, a nonprofit development assistant, an HR manager, a civil engineer or a customer service associate at the DMV, you’ll get ahead faster if you can communicate clearly in writing.
Surveys of employers consistently show that strong writing skills are at the top of their wish lists. So, if you want to make more money, start polishing those writing skills. If you consistently get compliments from colleagues and supervisors about your written work, perhaps it’s time to ask for a raise.
2. Writing Well Can Save You Time. It’s a sad by-product of the Information Age: we are inundated with written communication, particularly email. In fact, some of my favorite productivity, organization, and personal development blogs have entire series of posts devoted to getting back in control of those overflowing email inboxes. (Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders is a great place to start. If you feel like you’ll never get out from that mountain of email, give those pointers a try. I did, and my empty inbox is a constant source of joy.)
Writing clearer emails, from the subject line on down, can help to curb the email chaos and save more of your precious time. The clearer your writing is, the easier it is for your message’s recipient to make decisions based on your email and reply quickly and effectively. Learning the art of the email subject line alone can dramatically increase your productivity.
Starting today, resolve to summarize your reason for writing in the subject line in a way that your reader can understand without reading the whole email. Something like “HP Servers” isn’t as clear as you might think. What about the servers? Are they going down for maintenance? Is the company getting new ones? Are you sending around a questionnaire about the current servers? Are you distributing some original haiku that you composed over lunch? (If that last one is the case, then you really need to get out of the office more often.)
Overall, clarity increases effectiveness. Increased effectiveness, in turn, allows us to spend less time doing unimportant or undesirable tasks and more time living and enjoying our lives.
3. The Process Of Working On Your Writing Makes You A Better Thinker. Whereas the first two benefits I have outlined focus on the end result of writing better, i.e. what writing skills can do for you, even trying to improve your writing has remarkable benefits. The process of improving your writing starts with intense self examination. Many of us don’t think of ourselves as writers, even though we use writing every day. But when we resolve to become better writers, we implicitly acknowledge “writer” as a legitimate role for ourselves. That acknowledgement returns us to a higher level of consciousness with respect to writing, and we thus begin to think more carefully about how we write well before we gain increased proficiency.
I can explain the benefit to our thinking processes by means of the following analogy. It is as if we are dozing in the cockpit of an aircraft, having put the plane on autopilot so long ago that we don’t even remember that there are controls to be managed. Thinking of ourselves as writers wakes us up to contemplate the dizzying number of dials, switches, levers, and buttons within our reach. Perhaps we’re not ready to steer quite yet, but we are now sensitive to the myriad choices that we make every day as we communicate in writing. That realization in itself gives a new sense of purpose to our thinking. After all, as far as writing goes, we’re all already in mid-flight.