To Stand Out to Employers, Learn to Write Well

Writing ability is valued by employers throughout the economy for good reason. Bad writing wastes people’s time and saps their mental energy, reducing productivity; it can  lead to misunderstandings and even costly mistakes. From a reader’s perspective, writing that is clear and coherent is easy to process; it also conveys respect. Mastering the art of writing may not have been a high priority when you were a student, but once you graduate, it should be; a poorly-written résumé can scuttle your chances for a job interview, while a well-written report may put you on track for a promotion.

Over the years, you have likely absorbed much of what you know about vocabulary and grammar through reading. Anything you are unsure of can be looked up in a comprehensive dictionary. But good writing is more than just a set of rules. An important part of learning to write well involves developing an appreciation, or an ear, for good prose, and an understanding of why it works. Writing coherently also requires getting outside of your head and making an effort to connect the dots for readers who may not have your level of background knowledge and insight.

 For a clear and entertaining explanation of what makes good writing good (and bad writing bad), I highly recommend The Sense of Style: the Thinking Persons Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker. Chapter 5, Arcs of Coherence: How to Ensure that Readers will Grasp the Topic, Get the Point, Keep Track of the Players, and See How One Idea Flows from Another, is particularly instructive. The book also provides guidance on modern usage, including debunking several persistent and pervasive myths about rules of grammar, word choice and punctuation.

 As with any valuable transferable skill, mastering the art of writing is not easy; it takes time and lots of practice. But if you make the effort to learn to write well, you are guaranteed to stand out in the workplace. This skill is always at or near the top of any employer’s wish list. 

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