"IF you cannot write well, you cannot think well; if you cannot think
well, others will do your thinking for you." That quote from Oscar Wilde
eloquently sums up the fact that our writing reflects our thoughts, and that
reflection magnifies the gaps in our thinking. We have a choice then: rethink
critically and refine our ideas if we wish to influence others, or close our
eyes and lose the world to someone else. Essentially, then, writing provides us
with an anvil to hammer our thoughts out before they can shine the world.
modern employers are echoing those words of Oscar Wilde: they want to hire
graduates who can write coherently and think creatively. In fact, the lack of
professional writing skills is one of the biggest gaps in workplace readiness.
Burning Glass Technologies, which mines job advertisements across various job
sectors to find sought-after skills, stresses that writing and other
communication skills that are in high demand can be difficult to find.
American blue chips spent billions training employees to
job sectors also include popular scientific fields such as medicine,
engineering and information technology. Despite often being high achievers during
their school years, many entrants remain so engrossed in honing their technical
skills that they ignore other skills that make them well-rounded professionals.
Knowledge of writing is thus limited to possessing just enough skills to get
Knowing 'enough' is not enough though. Birmingham Skills Investment Plan (2016-2026)
highlights the lack of writing ability as a key deficiency in the skill sets of
job applicants in Britain's second largest city. Likewise, the National
Commission of Writing reported that even as far back as 2004, the American blue
chips were spending an estimated $3.1 billion to train their employees on how
to write clearly.
one needs to learn how to write may surprise - even offend - many after doing
all the hard yards at school. However, the purpose of all that writing
particularly technical writing, was to explain or demonstrate our understanding
to an examiner who was paid to read it. In contrast, in the professional world,
the writer competes for the reader's attention, so the writing must make sense.
With no physical gestures to explain the writer's mind, writing failures can
delay or scupper the desired outcomes. On a lighter note, Urdu poetry also
warns that failures in romantic writing can cost dearly.
writing effectively goes by the name of scientific writing. It is a
consolidated set of rules that can help anyone - students, teachers,
professionals or newspaper writers -write clearly. The mantra of scientific
writing is: simple sentences are powerful. For example, consider the following
two alternative statements: 'The recession had X saving us millions' or 'X
saved us millions during the recession'. The first sentence highlights 'recession'; X's impact is a mere consequence. The second sentence directly
states the intention. The rule is: identify the topic and put it in the
rule is to convey actions via verbs. Take 'the heart rate increased' versus 'there was an increase in the heart rate'. Both state the same but the first
statement is direct and briefer because it conveys the action with a verb;
while the second statement is longer and requires a helper verb. Long sentences
produce long documents, which take longer to read - hardly a recipe for
synonyms can obstruct clarity when communicating specialised knowledge to
someone not quite from the same discipline. Synonyms beautify writing if they
make sense readily, but they do not do so with specialised terminology. ThereÂfore,
scientific writing prescribes that one must clearly define the interchangeable
terms before using them. Even so, using far too many terms for the same thing
can confuse the reader.
with several other easily learnable rules, scientific writing ensures that the
information is conveyed precisely, concisely and consistently to the readers
who are not as familiar with the subject matter as the writer. Clearly, a
scientist who wishes to influence the society or a business that aims to woo
new clientele can appreciate this advice.
conclude, I rephrase Julian Treasure's words from his TED Talk. This is where
we are right now: we do not write well for the people who do not understand us
very well. What would the world be like if we were writing powerfully for the
people who were reading consciously? That would be a world where understanding
will be a norm, and that is an idea worth spreading.
The writer is a senior lecturer at the Birmingham City