Business leaders constantly decry the quality of writing in the workplace. Most of the time, comments are directed towards the education system and its failure to produce a young working class who can write competently. The blame game is a nasty one indeed.
What I’m interested in here is how we present ourselves formally in writing and more specific, the reason for our mistakes. While the rules of grammar and punctuation may have loosened up over the last century, mistakes still exist. If an error is made in writing, it can often be unclear as to whether the writer is ignorant of the grammar or is just being lazy with respect to its application. To further compound the problem, some writers may have been taught poorly when they were students. Perhaps they were given incorrect examples of what constitutes a participle, for example. They’re neither ignorant nor lazy, then, but there is a problem nevertheless. These writers, if there writing is to prosper, must be willing to unlearn what they have been taught and then learn correctly. This requires considerable effort.
The fact of the matter is that you simply cannot afford to be present yourself as a lazy writer, even you are willing to acknowledge that laziness marked your approach to writing at some point in the past. You must start by developing a discipline when addressing the practice, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes.
Chances are you bring discipline to something else in your life: a sport, a musical instrument, exercise, cooking, work. The trick is to begin translating some of this focus to writing. Not for hours and hours. Just for a little while at first. Even if you have been indifferent to the writing process for most of your life, lazy habits will slip into your routine and tarnish your work. I have taught so many adults who have displayed a pre-disposition to failure when it comes to basic grammar and punctuation. My belief is that years of dysfunctional schooling and unpleasant reading have caused this. They carry this baggage right into their writing experience as adults. No wonder they find it unpleasant!
The good news is that you are not doomed to fail. The bad news is that if you have ever had someone who tried to teach you that writing is easy, you have to do away with that idea immediately. Sadly, it’s just not true. Next time we’ll dig in with some strategies for developing your ethic.