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Why Writing Skills Can Make (or Break) Your Career

More than 90 percent of mid-career professionals say that writing effectively is a requirement of their day-to-day work. Find out why honing your writing skills could possibly be the best thing you could do for your future.

When we think of writers, we think of the eloquent words on the Declaration of Independence, the moving speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., or the forceful pen of Abraham Lincoln. We remember the passion of Jane Austen, or the philosophies of Henry Thoreau. Few of us think of ourselves as writers, but maybe we should. After all, there isn’t a movie, Web site, song, TV show, product label, menu, marketing plan, grant proposal, scientific report, legal brief, or piece of correspondence that would exist without writing.

That’s why The National Commission on Writing pointed out in its 2003 report, The Neglected R: The Need for a Writing Revolution, “writing today is not a frill for the few, but an essential skill for the many.” In fact, in a survey of 120 of America’s largest corporations, which employ nearly 8 million people, writing was called a threshold skill for both employment and promotion.

A Critical Issue
Two-thirds of salaried employees in the U.S. say that they have some writing responsibility at their jobs, and half of companies surveyed say they take writing into account when considering promotions. Simply put, those who cannot write effectively will find themselves passed over for promotions, if they’re even hired in the first place.

Even though writing skills are a valuable commodity, they’re hard to find. It costs American corporations more than $3 billion per year to fix on-the-job writing errors, and only 19 percent of companies are willing to spend money on writing training programs for employees. In these tough economic times, with companies looking to save money wherever possible, they’ll probably be less willing to continue spending this kind of money to fix writing problems in the future, opting instead to hire and retain employees with strong communication skills. So if you’re looking for a little job security, improving your writing skills is a great place to start.

So What Can You Do Now to Improve Your Writing Skills?

Ask for feedback. Poor communication skills may count against you in a job hunt or at work, so it pays to have someone else review anything you write. Even professional writers need feedback in order to produce their best work.

Practice makes perfect. Take a writing class, if you haven’t already. Volunteer for a writing project. Start a journal. You can’t be a better writer unless you write.

Take every writing task seriously. Everything you write–even emails, tweets, and Facebook posts–says something about who you are. Give it your best effort every time.

Read. Just 15 minutes a day of independent reading can expose you to more than a million words of text each year, boosting your vocabulary and your intelligence. You can’t be a better writer unless you read good writing.

From a cover letter and resume to email correspondence, professional manuals, or technical reports, it’s clear that writing could be the very thing that makes or breaks your career, regardless of your field. So give yourself an edge by honing your writing skills.

Publish date: July 24, 2009