The phrase “excellent written and verbal communication skills” keeps popping up in many job listings. According to career experts, these writing skills are in high demand in the workplace.
Are you confident that your emails and reports reflect professional communication? Would your lack of proofreading skills embarrass the boss? It might be time to do a reality check on your ability to crank out the written word.
What writing skills do employers want?
When employers ask for “writing skills” in a job posting, they don’t necessarily mean they want a story writer or a journalist. Think about how writing fits into your career niche, whatever that may be. Ask someone working in your chosen field about the kind of writing they do. It might include academic writing, business writing, technical writing, creative writing, social media writing or blogging.
Employers might assign you tasks such as emails, reports, newsletters, editing or research. They want to be assured you will produce error-free, organized and readable work. Some will ask for a writing sample on the job application. Their business reputation depends on quality communication. So you’ll need to be able to prove you’re up to the task.
Evaluate your skills
Evaluating your writing skills is the first step to becoming a more confident writer. If you’re in school, your grades on class writing assignments will give you one sign of how you compare to your classmates. Another approach is to ask a good writer to give you an honest assessment of some of your writing.
The BJU Writing Center’s peer tutors offer helpful feedback to students who bring in writing assignments. You might ask if your sentence structure, organization, logical flow or creativity need some work. Don’t despair if your grades aren’t as high as you would like them to be or if your friend points out some mistakes. Use those opportunities to help you focus on what you want to improve.
Improvement is possible
If your writing assessment was a little lacking, realize that becoming a good writer takes time and effort, like any other skill. But the payoffs are worth pursuing excellence. Skillful writers communicate a clear message so others understand them. They persuade others to their viewpoint. They build trust and credibility for their employer by using proper form and writing etiquette.
And remember, good writers aren’t born with magical DNA; they’re always working to improve. There are several methods you can use to help polish those rusty writing skills.
Use a Checklist
Using your own writing from previous assignments or projects is one way to track problems and measure progress. Many writing teachers recommend a personal checklist created from your old papers. List your problem areas, spelling mistakes and helpful teacher comments. Note new vocabulary words. Then use your checklist each time you write something new. It will help you catch errors and provide encouragement as you see improvement in those areas.
Keep updating your checklist as your writing skills advance.
Another way good writers improve is to schedule time to read some of the best writing in major publications. Reading in your field will help you build your vocabulary and recognize patterns of expression used by good writers. Notice the organization of the material, the kind of sentences and word choices in the writing. How did the writer make it easy to understand? Most of us won’t be competing with published writers in national media, but we can learn from them.
Try Artificial Intelligence
Technology offers another way to improve your writing, especially proofreading. But you should be mindful of the limitations. It goes without saying that most writers use standard grammar and spell checkers in word processing programs such as Microsoft Word.
You can also use newer writing apps like Grammarly or Hemingway that have evolved with artificial intelligence. Although they offer more advanced writing help, you’ll need to do the critical thinking and planning. Artificial intelligence can supplement your skills, but it still can’t replace them.
Take a Writing Class
Taking one or two extra writing classes during college is also a great way to develop professional writing skills. Although you might feel intimidated when you think about taking a writing class, there are clear benefits. Experienced writing teachers don’t expect you to be perfect. They’ll challenge you to move to the next level. They’ll give needed feedback that might make you feel an occasional “ouch.”
Assignment deadlines will challenge you to make time in your schedule for writing. And an advanced writing class on your resume will verify that you’ve put in the work. BJU offers several writing classes beyond the freshmen level appropriate for many careers. Check out the course catalog or talk with your advisor about the possibilities.
Getting It Done
If you’re procrastinating (again) at the thought of starting or completing a class writing assignment, check out the Writing Center. Friendly peer tutors can help you brainstorm or look at your organization. They can discuss a concluding paragraph, review a bibliography, or give you great tips on proofreading. They’ll encourage you in your quest to become a confident writer, whatever your current level.
You can even make an appointment ahead of time to give yourself a deadline to meet. Making time for writing is a good investment for your future.