By Richard Nordquist. Grammar & Composition Expert
Richard Nordquist, Ph.D. in English, is professor emeritus of rhetoric and English at Armstrong Atlantic State University and the author of two grammar and composition textbooks for college freshmen, Writing Exercises (Macmillan) and Passages: A Writer’;s Guide (St. Martin’;s Press). Richard has served as the About.com Guide to Grammar Composition since 2006.
Let’;s be honest: how do you feel about having to write? Do you tend to view a writing project as a challenge or as a chore? Or is it merely a dull duty, one that you have no strong feelings about at all?
Whatever your attitude may be, one thing is certain: how you feel about writing both affects and reflects how well you can write.
Let’;s compare the attitudes expressed by two students:
- I love to write and I always have. Even when I was a little kid, if there wasn’;t any paper I would write on the walls! I keep an online journal and write l-o-n-g emails to my friends and family. I usually get pretty good grades from instructors who let me write.
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- I HATE to write. I get so nervous when I have to write that my hands shake. Writing is just about the worst punishment you can give me. Maybe if I had LOTS of time and I didn’;t get so anxious I could be a halfway decent writer. But I’;m really not very good at it.
Although your own feelings about writing may fall somewhere between these extremes, you probably recognize what the two students have in common: their attitudes toward writing are directly related to their abilities. The one who enjoys writing does well because she practices often, and she practices because she does well.
On the other hand, the one who hates writing avoids opportunities to improve.
You might be wondering, "What can I do if I don’;t especially enjoy writing? Is there any way I can change the way I feel about having to write?"
"Yes," is the simple answer. Certainly you can change your attitude–and you will, as you gain more experience as a writer. In the meantime, here are a few points to think about:
- Sharpening your writing skills will help you improve your grades in many different courses, not just in English classes.
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- Regardless of your career goals, writing is one of the most practical skills you can have. On a typical work day, professionals in fields as diverse as engineering, marketing, computer programming, and management spend upwards of 50% of their time writing .
- According to a study recently conducted by the College Board, more than 75% of managers report that they take writing into account when hiring and promoting employees. "There’;s a premium placed on well-developed writing skills," observed one human resources director.
- Writing can be personally rewarding and enriching, an outlet for your anxieties rather than a cause of them. Keeping a journal. composing e-mails or text messages to friends, even writing an occasional poem or short story (whether or not you ever intend to show your work to anyone else)–all allow you to practice your writing skills without the fear of being judged.
- Writing can be fun. Seriously! You may just have to trust me on this one for now, but soon you should find that being able to express your thoughts clearly in writing can produce an enormous sense of delight and satisfaction.
You get the point. As you begin working to become a better writer, you’;ll find that your attitude toward writing improves with the quality of your work. So enjoy! And start writing.
Writing Suggestion: Defining Your Goals
Spend some time thinking about why you would like to improve your writing skills: how you might benefit, personally and professionally, by becoming a more confident and competent writer. Then, on a sheet of paper or at your computer, explain to yourself why and how you plan to achieve the goal of becoming a better writer.