Reading and writing are basic skills that are necessary to get you by in most workplaces, regardless of your field of expertise.
It is not enough to be able to talk to others in your native language, it only seems right that as a fluent speaker of English you should also hold the basic skills to be able to communicate eloquently on all levels in your first language, including in writing.
Reading and writing are seen as basic skills. Photo credit: susivinh via Visualhunt.com
Non-native speakers coming to England naturally expect those born and bred in the country to be experts in English, however it is more often than not they who have a better grasp of the individualities of written English. Speakers of English as a second language study its attributes more intensely over a shorter period of time, simultaneously learning how to speak the language whilst also tackling how to read and write it correctly.
Non-UK nationals wishing to study or work in the country are usually especially keen to prove their commitment to Britain by perfecting their language skills. Many therefore put in great effort into attending language classes and undertaking national study programmes like GCSE or A Level English so that they can boast the same level of education as some of their colleagues.
Sadly it is not uncommon for Britons to struggle with spelling in their mother-tongue language. In this day and age, it seems like the importance of good writing is somewhat overlooked by the education system, which places more emphasis on the content of the subjects studied and giving pupils less help with basic writing skills (including handwriting, spelling, grammar and vocabulary).
Although schools require pupils to study English as standard up to the age of sixteen, the little focus on the finer details of language and on improving communication does not help our younger generations to take pride in their written skills.
The syllabus dictates that students should be at a certain level when they begin a course and, if they are not, there is little teachers can do to get them up to speed as their class time is mapped out to teach particular modules. Consequently, pupils who fall behind with things like language skills therefore have no option but to seek private tuition or continue through their education and beyond with a poor standard of literacy.
In addition to the core subjects featured on the current syllabi, a compulsory Life Skills programme would be beneficial to teach pupils the importance of communication to the way in which they present themselves to others. This includes how their written skills on official documents (like their curriculum vitae, for example) come across to employers, as well as teaching them that their appearance and body language can say a lot about their personality and attitude.
Sole traders or small independent businesses will no doubt be doing their own marketing and communications including social media updates, producing web content, quoting, invoicing, etc… all of which require some level of writing.
A good command of English is vital in business to show professionalism and to prevent any costly mistakes caused by inconsistencies in grammar and spelling, not to motion the incorrect use of punctuation.
It sounds incredibly trivial but sometimes a comma or a full stop can make all the difference in the meaning of a sentence!
In today’s world, it seems like anyone and everyone is becoming an author. Celebrities who found fame and fortune in either sport, fashion or television are now turning their hand to writing autobiographies or are seeking new careers as children’s writers. Yet, it is hard to believe that they all have a natural flair for writing.
As it happens, many of them do not. In fact, many successful writers are not excellent spellers or great with sentence structure. That is where the job of editors and even ghost writers comes in, to turn an initial idea into a coherent piece of writing that makes the reader want to keep on finding out more.
The point here being that the ability to write well is not a skill that many people possess, therefore overcoming your pride and making the effort to become a better writer means that you are acquiring a dying out skill, in turn making your skills all the more valuable to employers.
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Your interest in becoming a better writer might quite simply be down to you wanting to pursue a hobby of yours, or to improve your general literacy skills. Regardless of why you might be considering ways to improve your writing, it is always a good idea to teach yourself using resources produced by teachers or, even better, to attend a class whereby you can learn from an expert.
Writing is very important in business but can also impact on your everyday life. Photo via Visual hunt
Whether you are looking to improve your own writing skills, or you are teaching others the art of writing, you will surely agree that the most important way to approach writing studies is by starting off at the beginning and working your way up gradually to more complex practices.
This really does mean going back to basics; like being reminded that sentences start with a capital letter, are more often than not made up of a subject, verb and complement, and that they always end with a period (this could be a full stop, an exclamation mark or a question mark).
Other key lessons are to always use a capital letter when using names or the pronoun ‘I’. On a similar note, learners should be aware that, when writing about themselves or as the narrator of a text whereby others are also mentioned, the pronoun ‘I’ should always take to the back of the queue. This means listing all others before oneself, for example: “Tom, Dick, Harry and I” as opposed to “Me, Tom, Dick and Harry”.
Starting off with short and simple sentences is advisable, before attempting more advanced structures, like those with commas, semi-colons or colons included within them.
In order to really understand how to construct a sentence though, pupils need to understand the basic parts of speech, some of which were mentioned above. This means that word categories such as nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs should all be examined.
To help a true beginner to start writing sentences, teachers might offer prompts, such as “I am from…”, “My name is… “, or “My pet is…”. These simple exercises allow students to learn how to provide basic facts in sentence-form, and can then enable them to move onto using more descriptive language tools.
Asking pupils to describe others’ appearances in a class or to talk about an object can help them build confidence in their descriptive writing abilities.
Once a basic understanding of writing using sentences has been mastered, pupils can continue to build on these foundations and begin writing short creative pieces of writing, or writing diary-style entries to get them accustomed to using a wider range of vocabulary and language tools. Then, they can experiment with writing in first or third person, using different tones and styles.
Research has shown that there is a very strong link between reading and writing: their close relationship often means that when a person is good at one, they will usually be good at the other too.
Remember that, without the discipline of reading, a writer would have no place in the world. This is why you should practice reading to help you to understand what you, as a reader, get from it and what you therefore need to recreate in your own written words.
Children learn to read before they write because reading ultimately teaches them about how to do the other.
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At times, misspellings can entirely change the meaning of what you write, leaving you red-faced. A perfect example of this is a parent lovingly typing a photo caption on their Facebook page saying “What an angle”, when they actually intended to refer to their child as an “angel”. Oops!
Not only do these kinds of typos make you want to cringe, but they can also make you seem unprofessional or even illiterate, depending on who your audience is.
In many cases, innocent typos are not the end of the world but we wonder if Donald Trump’s team were at all mortified by the spelling mistake in the President’s official inauguration poster which read: “No dream is too big, no challenge is to great”…
Poor spelling can be embarrassing for you as an individual or for your business, but it can also cost you money in the long-run. For example, if you saw marketing materials riddled with errors, would you be as keen to buy from that company? Correct spelling makes an organisation seem more professional and cared for, and it improves the overall presentation of their work.
In addition, not understanding punctuation can lead to you committing to more work than you set out to (to the reader, a comma says ‘and’ but an inexperienced writer could mean ‘or’ when they write it down and not realise the implications).
The key to improving your spelling is not only to practice writing, but to read as much as you can, and as widely as possible. However, if you are serious about educating yourself on spelling, pronunciation and the like, then you might be keen to look into courses or finding resources online to get you ahead of the game.
If you have tried your best to teach yourself basic writing skills but you are still lacking in confidence, it may be time to consider joining a class or finding a tutor who can work on your weaknesses with you. The most common spelling mistakes are recognising the difference between words like ‘to’, ‘too’ and ‘two’, as well as ‘its’ and ‘it’s’. During classes, teachers can explain the key differences between these types of common occurrences and give you fewer reasons to question your spelling.
Although dictionaries are now somewhat dated, these are a great way of checking the spelling of words. If you are writing an essay or story, keep a dictionary close by so that you can stop and consult a word’s spelling and definition while you are in the moment.
You can also access a dictionary or thesaurus online, which might save you time if you have your smartphone to hand.
We often take for granted our smartphones and what they can do, but the predictive text features which appear across most mobile operating systems are extremely useful in understanding the spelling of words.
You may notice that, as you begin to type, the correctly-spelled word appears before you. This is just one more way of getting to know the correct spelling of a variety of words as you go about your everyday life.
Every student knows that a good essay starts with an introduction and ends with a conclusion, with a body of text in between split into various paragraphs or points. But what is it that takes a good essay and makes it a great essay? Is there such a thing as a perfect essay?
Teachers and examiners would agree that a successful essay is the culmination of a list of things: an interesting topic, a strong introductory statement, a revelation or conclusion that sums up the points discussed and, of course, a good display of spelling, grammar, vocabulary and punctuation.
If you try to write an essay in the order in which it is read, you are going to encounter some difficulties. The first thing you should do when setting about writing so essay is to plan the text in diagram form or by noting down bullet points in succession.
It is at this stage that your essay will begin to take form and any points you wish to make will become clear.
Try to make your sections flow by identifying links between paragraphs. At this stage, you can move paragraphs around until you find a skeleton of text that works. Once you are happy that you know the direction in which your essay will head, start writing the body first.
A top essay writing tip is to always leave your introduction and conclusion until last, even though this goes against your instincts. The introduction, by nature, tells the reader what you plan to look at in the thesis while the conclusion summarises the key points made and ultimately answers the questions raised in the introductory paragraph.
Allow yourself the freedom to go off on a tangent in the body of text if an idea springs to mind – do not limit yourself to staying on a predetermined track set out by an introduction, as these spontaneous thoughts could be the ones that take your essay from good to, dare we say, perfect.
The perfect essay might take a different course than that you planned for. Photo credit: cogdogblog via Visual hunt
The time it takes to write your essay is irrelevant. If you are a fast writer, then writing a 1500-word essay in the space of a couple of hours is not uncommon. Equally, spending two or three hours a night for a week on structuring your perfect essay could simply be the best way for you.
Just because your peers spent more or less time on their essays than you did, does not mean that your work is any stronger or weaker.
It feels like the spelling level in the UK is falling drastically, but could it be the volume of words we see each day that is making this theory appear true? An average person will read other people’s words at various points in their day: a news headline, an email from a colleague, a text message from a friend, a blog about DIY, not to mention all of the product marketing that is under our noses as we watch TV , walk about the streets, go to a shop etc…
So, could we be under the illusion that our population’s basic skills are diminishing simply because a larger number of people have found a voice thanks to the World Wide Web?
If you think about it, the only texts we would have read prior to the Internet would have been words written by people who are good at it (for instance authors and journalists) or those who enjoyed it as a hobby (a letter from a pen pal, for example).
These individuals are bound to be reasonably good spellers as they have had practice and shown an interest in the skill. However, many of the remarks posted on our screens are written by people who are so used to using the Internet to voice their opinions that they really do not distinguish the difference between writing and speaking.
It is vital that our country does not let go of one of its greatest individual attributes – its language.
English is considered as the number one business language in the world, which makes it somewhat sacred. Teaching our younger generations to speak, and more importantly write, is a necessity not only for the future of our language but also for the adults of the future.
Those who struggle to write well often feel insecure about writing anything at all and allow their creativity to be stifled. By helping all youngsters improve their communication skills and the way they approach writing, we could be welcoming more creative minds, which is a hugely important quality for the development of our society.
The only way to improve your writing style is to practice, and do lots of it! The more writing you do, the better your technique will be and the easier you will find the task. That is why writing on a regular basis is a good idea for those who really want to ramp up their skills, and particularly those who want to graft their writing and make a career out of it. These individuals should ideally be writing everyday.
Budding authors, despite potentially being very good at their craft already, are encouraged to write daily and to publish blogs into the public domain. Having others read your writing is extremely valuable, so that any criticism can be taken on board and a lesson can be learnt for the future.
Did you know that all books are edited before they get published, even those by the best-selling authors of the world?
It is essential that books have another pair of eyes to look over them to check for any missed errors, to check their suitability for their desired audience and to suggest changes to things like content, tone and structure which might make the book be better perceived and thus sell more copies. Editors themselves are experts of their field (and are often writers themselves) and their input is essential.
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Reading a variety of texts with differing styles can help you to absorb more writing techniques and experience more emotions as a result.
Written words are interpreted differently by each end every reader, which is what makes reading and writing so subjective. Books are intended to invoke a variety of emotions for the reader, so being able to perform this duty as an author is key.
As you familiarise yourself with more texts, you will find yourself becoming a critique. This is good because it means that you really care about writing!
Many have commented on J K Rowling’s use of language in her world-famous Harry Potter series, hinting that this is not quite as world-class as the collection of books has grown to be. Yet others argue that her mastery of simplistic language, used in a way that tells such a vivid story, is what makes her such a brilliant writer for her intended audience.
The history of English dates back to 430 AD, when a mixture of tribes resided in Britain and spoke different variations of a Germanic language. As they gradually colonised the island, the various kingdoms were slowly dominated by the Anglo Saxons and the emerging language became known as Englisc, now referred to as Old English.
Though it is hard to put a date on the creation of the English language, the facts all point to the first distinguishing features of the language we know now started off as four dialects: Northumbrian, Mercian, West Saxon and Kentish.
Although approximately 85% of Old English words were thought to have died out over the years, some common words in the English language had their roots in the dialect. Many Anglo Saxon texts have survived to this day, with the most famous being ‘Beowulf’, which was written sometime between the 8th and 11th century and is now studied as part of many English-related courses.