Why does someone go to college? To learn. To get a degree. To prepare for a career. It is important to develop the technical skills needed to succeed in your future career. To gain the knowledge that is germane to your discipline. To learn the processes and procedures that will be required for your next job. But, just as important, perhaps even more important, is the development of certain critical skills that will follow you throughout your career and for the rest of your life. Post University emphasizes what we call “the 4-Cs”: Communication, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, and Creativity. Four skills that we feel are crucial for each and every student to develop to achieve success in their life and their career. The following five tips will address communication skills, specifically, written communication skills.
Learning to write well, to write effectively, is a life-long learning process. I am a better writer today than I was a year ago and even better than I wrote the year before that. And I hope to be a better writer next year and even better by the time I celebrate my 70th birthday. What’s my secret? Consider:
1. Read! The more you read, the better you will write (and you may learn a few other things along the way, as well). Without even thinking about it, you will begin to model the writing you are reading. You will start to enrich your vocabulary by seeing what words good writers use in the ways in which they use them. You will start to see, in your writing, your use of more “five” and “ten dollar” words rather than the “fifty-cent” words more familiar in your past writing. This improvement will not happen overnight. But spend a lifetime reading, and you will be amazed at how much you develop as a writer. Just remember, improving yourself (throughout your life) never needs to stop. Don’t let poor written communication skills get in the way of your future success.
2. Read your paper, out loud, before submitting it. When you are finished writing your paper, read it out loud to yourself. If it doesn’t sound right, it isn’t. Identify the areas that seem questionable and work to improve the way it sounds. In other words, edit your paper.
3. Edit your paper. Even the best writers edit their writing before they say “finis.” First drafts are never perfect and can always use more improvement. Never submit the first draft of your paper without reviewing and revising it (don’t forget to read it out loud!). Besides, the act of editing your writing makes you a better writer. It forces you to pay closer attention to sentence structure, “paragraphing” word usage, etc. Trust me on this one. My writing skills improved when I was “forced” to read, grade and edit student papers.
4. Write to your audience. Know your audience when you sit down to write. Are you writing to your sister on Facebook or to the President on Twitter? Or are you submitting an executive summary to your company’s CEO who wants to know the most salient points of your department’s five-year strategic plan? When sitting down to write, think about who your intended audience will be and flex your writing style to meet your reader’s needs (and demands!). Also, assume your audience does not know what you know about what you’re about to write. Provide your audience with the background information and context they will need to understand what you are trying to convey clearly. Read over your writing. Will others (besides yourself) know what you are trying to say? Don’t write to yourself (unless it’s your diary). Always have your audience in mind when you write
5. When in doubt, contact the University Learning Center. The University provides a Writing Center to help you improve your writing. Use it! Even if you think you’re already good at writing, you can always get better. You have nothing to lose (except a little free time) and a whole lot to gain (remember, your future boss is going to expect that you write well). You can stop by, call or email them to set-up an appointment (203.596.4686, email@example.com, Writing@Post.edu). And online students are certainly welcome!
So, start improving your writing skills to maximize your college and career success now and in your future.