Monday, March 11, 2013

"Want To Be Taken Seriously? Become a Better Writer"

The number of poorly written emails, resumes and blog posts I come across each month is both staggering and saddening. Their grammar is awful. There are dozens of misspellings. Language is much wordier or more complex than necessary. Some things I read literally make no sense at all to me.

I can imagine my students thinking, "There goes RP Sir, riding his favourite hobby horse again." But those thoughts up there have been expressed by an American CEO, no less, who is also a New York Times best-selling author and keynote speaker.

Dave Kerpen's post on why you should become a better writer if you want to be taken seriously first came to my notice when I checked my LinkedIn account the other day. In the same way his arguments resonated with me, they appear to have struck a chord with many others because this post, as of today, has been tweeted about by more than 3,000 people, shared on LinkedIn by more than 18,000 users, and has attracted more than 8,000 "likes".

Kerpen does not talk down to his readers, as is obvious from a point he makes in his post:

It's not just you who must become a better writer — it’s all of us. I'll be the first to admit, I too have had to learn to become a better writer.

Kerpen then elaborates on the methods he used to become a better writer over the past several years. Here are the bullet points:
  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Say it out loud.
  • Make it more concise.
  • Work on your headlines.
  • Read.
You can see for yourself what he has to say about each of the first four points here. Since I consider "good" reading to be essential for good writing, here's Kerpen's last point in full:

Besides practicing writing, the number one way to improve your writing skills is to read great work. I read at least one book per month, at least 20 articles per week, and countless tweets, Facebook posts and emails per day. I know we all have limited time, but truly the best way to become a better writer is to become a better reader [emphasis mine].

I now "follow" Dave Kerpen on LinkedIn. You may want to do the same.

PS: You may also want to read Kerpen's views on how your attitude at work is everything.  Check out this highly relevant post, too: "Best Advice: Always Show Your Friendship First".
  • Photo courtesy: Dave Kerpen

1. If you want to be a versatile writer, here's some practical advice

2. "The five traits of a successful writer"

3. Here's how to make time to read 

4. If you don't read, you can't write  

5. In one quote, the essence of writing 
  • EXTERNAL READING: Simon Kuper, writing in the Financial Times, argues that texts, blogs, e-mails, and Facebook posts are affecting other kinds of writing mostly for the good. Read his column here: "How social media improved writing". I am obliged to Apar Dham (Class of 2011) for the alert. Apar wrote in an e-mail to me today: "Some food for thought at the beginning of the week? I remember you always cringing at the language youngsters use for texting, Twitter, Facebook, etc. So I thought that this article might make for some interesting reading." It sure did, Apar!

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