Art of effective writing

Write right: Good writing skills help in effective communication.

Write right: Good writing skills help in effective communication.  

Effective writing is an essential skill that is required in most professions. We move on to explore the world of written communication.

Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. E. L. Doctorow, American authorFor success in most professions, writing is an essential skill. This may not be indispensable for those who are confined to manual work.

But even technicians who have to work only on machines may have to prepare reports for submission to their supervisors.

Although their main work is not focused on writing skills, impressions are created by the quality of their reports that may in the long run affect their career graph.

As one goes up the professional ladder, supervisory and managerial components expand in most cases. Skills in spoken as well as written communication will prove to be decisive for success at these levels.

Developing skills

Proficiency in any language cannot be developed overnight. There has to be persistent effort stretching over many years. Some would tell that a voracious reader would naturally become a master of the language. This is partly true. If you read the works of great masters of the language for several years, you will automatically develop not only fine comprehension but an appreciation of excellence in language. But this will be true only if you are a careful reader, applying your mind to the finer aspects of language as well.

Further, students with their focus on studies in science subjects and numerous entrance tests and other examinations may not be able to devote much time for general reading. Computer games and television programmes, which are often more colourful and exciting to the young, are likely to make inroads into their attempts towards dedicated general reading.

Jeffrey A. Carver, science fiction author, once advised aspirants, “Practise, practise, practise writing. Writing is a craft that requires both talent and acquired skills. You learn by doing, by making mistakes and then seeing where you went wrong.” But the time spent in developing writing skills is no waste. Look at what Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, had to tell – “The pen is the tongue of the mind.”

You should keep in mind that comprehension and good writing are different. We may say that good reading is not a passive activity. But writing a piece entails intensive effort and strain. One who has read a lot of excellent writing may not be able to write a piece well without special practice in writing. The skills involved in reading and writing are different, though both of them contain elements of language proficiency.

Distinct feature

In speaking and listening, the sequence is decided by the speaker; the listener has to follow the speaker. A great merit of written communication is that the reader can read the matter again and again if he wants. Further, he has the freedom to read selectively or in the sequence of his choice. The writer can adopt various methods to attract the attention of the reader to select portions of the matter.

Underlining, bold letters, capitals, italics, colours, highlights, subtitles, and layout including the wise application of boxes and white space are some of the options. Long pieces may be followed by a summary.

Those who pursue occupations in science, engineering or technology may come across suggestions indicating that they need not care for the nuances in writing good language; they need write only ‘technical English.’ Never pay attention to such misguiding hints. The time spent in developing fine skills in writing and speaking good English is spent well. You will be rewarded. It will be of help on various occasions in your career. Lack of language skills, on the other hand, will prove to be a handicap.

It is true that each subject such as mathematics, chemistry, and engineering has its own ‘technical English.’ But the crucial factor in handling these is the skill in basic English. In addition, you will have to master the special terms, idiom, and forms of expressions that are common in the disciplines concerned. Every trade has its jargon and every group its lingo.

Whenever you write, you should have in mind the aim of your writing, the background of the readers, and the best structure/approach to convey the information. The aim may be to inform, entertain, regulate, control, record, persuade, thank, sell, build relationships, seek support, advise and so on.

The first draft may not be the best draft even if you are an expert. You should have patience to correct, revise, edit, and improve your draft. This will enhance the effectiveness in communication and make things easier for the reader.

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