When it comes to writing there is no excuse for getting it wrong! Discover a few writing tips and tools that help make for great writing
Today’s ever-shortening style of communicating is tough on a bookworm and wordsmith like me. Texting is convenient but also pretty annoying for this protector of the king’s English! Now, social media has made everyone a micro-blogger! The constant bombardment of bad spelling and terrible grammar in my news feeds is a killer!
But seriously, getting grammar and spelling right still has big implications in the workplace. More and more employers are including writing tests as part of the application process. Clear and concise writing is essential for anyone with management aspirations.
A less-than-perfect command of business-appropriate language definitely hurts people from the ‘short-and-sweet’ generation. There is a big difference between writing an email to a boss or client, and banging out a text to a friend. Sometimes it’s obvious who was sitting in the back of English class!
How writing and speaking can hurt you
Literacy is ‘…the ability to read and write.’ The ability to get it right when SPEAKING the language also influences our ability to advance at work. Grammar mistakes and mispronounced words are often used to characterize one’s level of education.
Improvement starts with recognizing your challenges and then finding tools to help you improve your writing and speaking skills!
Step One: face the music
Show your writing samples (outside of social media) to the smartest person you know. This should also be the most honest person you know! It might be an eye-opening experience or it just might confirm your worst fears. If exposing yourself to that kind of scrutiny is a scary idea, there are places you can go on the Internet to do a self-assessment.
Once you have an idea of where your writing skills are lacking, there are things you can do to keep from being judged or held back while you work to improve your skill level.
Step Two: choose your weapons
If you have access to Microsoft Word or some other writing tool, review the settings in the program. You are able to fine-tune how the app will catch and point out your mistakes. The key here is to pay attention to the mistakes being pointed out! If you are unable to buy Word, of course, the Internet has what you need – free!
Check out some of the links below and find some great online tools to use in your writing routine. Copy and paste any sort of writing into these tools and you will come out smelling like a rose! My personal favorite: the Hemingway Editor. It does a great job of suggesting changes, pointing out sentences that are too long and other areas where my writing can improve. Hemingway is a great learning tool! There is a desktop version and a mobile version, or you can use the online version for free.
Another great tool is Grammarly. My experience with Grammarly just began so check back for updates on my experience. It is different from Hemingway in that the basic free version requires you to install an extension in your browser. This is very convenient if you do lots of writing because the extension learns your writing style, but the browser extension tends to make my Safari kinda buggy. Next I will try the desktop app. Also, Grammarly entries pop-up when you are on the Web googling, to spot-check spelling and word usage.
If you are lucky enough that all of your writing is pretty much only on your social media – do us a favor and at least make sure you are typing it correctly. Facebook will occasionally highlight some of your misspelled words so take a minute before you hit “Post” and review the suggestions! Or, use this online spellchecker before you post:
Here are more great tools to bookmark on your browser:
Step Three: watch your mouth
When it comes to speaking, there is more than our education (or lack thereof) working against us! Where we grew up, the company we keep and the media we consume all influence so much of our daily language. Many words and phrases make it into the lexicon whether-or-not they are correct. The creators of movies, music, television and social media push ‘verbal incorrectness’ in order to have mass appeal. The result is the standards for good grammar are often left in tatters on the roadside of the Information Superhighway!
Check out these links and find out lots of common words and phrases that you are probably getting wrong when you speak and write:
Step Four: work to get better
Most community colleges and some universities have short, non-credit courses that are perfect for working adults who want to improve their writing skills. These courses might be on-campus or online. There are also lots of articles online with tips and tricks to help you take a few steps toward getting better every day.
The absolute BEST thing you can do is to increase the amount of reading you do every day. The best way to learn any language, even written language, is to immerse yourself in it! If you become a voracious reader you will pick up good writing habits – some of which you might not understand! You will develop a keen eye for what looks right and what sounds right.
Comment below and tell me: how has your literacy helped or hurt your career?