Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Over the years that I have been teaching writing, I’ve discovered that the biggest obstacle to writing well is attitude. Negative attitudes about writing start when we are young. But luckily, it is never too late change our attitudes.

Writing is more than letters of the alphabet or words on a page. It is the second most important means by which humankind communicates with itself, the first being speech. In generations past, those who could not communicate effectively with others were considered ignorant, uneducated, and unintelligent. Today, however, poor language skills have become trendy and represent a culture that relies on tweets and instant messages as forms of communication.

The National Writing Project states in their report, Because Writing Matters: Improving Student Writing in Our Schools, “In today’s business world, writing is a ‘threshold skill’ for both employment and promotion.” They explain that American corporations often avoid hiring or promoting those who lack good writing skills, which limits a person’s potential for a successful, well-paying career.
On the other hand, those who speak and write well obtain higher levels of education, earn more money in the workforce, and often become the leaders in our society. According to the College Board’s National Commission on Writing, two-thirds of employees in large U.S. companies are required to write, yet billions of dollars are spent each year trying to improve employees’ poor writing skills.

In addition to increasing our odds in the work force, good writing is also critical to academic success. Already out of school? Think about your kids. Writing helps develop thinking and problem-solving skills, aids in the retention of knowledge, and improves reading comprehension. According to the National Writing Project, “If students are to learn, they must write.”

So, writing matters. But what if you or your child don’t like to write? What if, when faced with a task that requires writing, you say, “I can’t write!” Is it possible to change one’s attitude about writing and to learn the skills needed to write well? The answer is YES!

Here are 4 quick tips to not only improve writing, but to also change your “I can’t” attitude into “I can!”—

1. Learn the Rules – When we feel insecure, our writing suffers. One way to increase confidence as writers is to become comfortable with grammar and punctuation rules. Eat, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss is my favorite book on the subject. It’s funny and informative.

2. Throw Away the Red Pen – Nothing discourages a child (or an adult) more than criticism. In the early stages of writing, focus on the positive rather than the negative. Don’t harp on mistakes. Instead, use them as teaching moments, and give plenty of praise for creativity and effort.

3. Limit Screen TimeThe Nemours Foundation states that kids and adults alike spend about 1,000 hours a year in front of the TV and on other electronic devices. Staring at a screen reduces the brain’s capacity for imagination and creativity, both required for good writing. The answer? Turn off the TV.

4. Make Writing Fun – Writing isn’t all about essays and research reports. Try jotting down a story or poem, keep a journal, or write a letter to a friend. Even when an essay is required, allowing kids to choose their own topics increases motivation.

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