Despite living in a world of abbreviations and informal communication, you will need to communicate through writing at some point. I promise. When word processors (obviously, this now applies to laptops and iPads) first appeared, writing guru William Zinsser pointed out that “good writers got better and bad writers got worse.” In his classic One Writing Well, he goes on to tell us that “the new age, for all its electronic wizardry, is still-writing based.” Indeed, technology, as always, is a double-edged sword and in truth, the written word is not going anywhere. Though this may often be difficult for tech-connected students to comprehend, there will be many situations in which writing formally and correctly will be very important in young peoples’ lives. We explore a few of these below.
Your Resume and Cover Letter: “tx 4 the opp” definitely won’t cut the muster for a cover letter, which, by the way, you should always send with a resume. You need to write in a mature, grammatically correct way which will convey your feelings of gratitude for the opportunity. Not only do you need to know the basics of good writing, but also the format of a letter and a resume. Technology, being the double-edged sword, can actually help you with these components. Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), for instance, is a goldmine of helpful information on writing, from resume formatting to grammar basics to MLA and APA styles. Using resources like OWL can help you to grasp the basics that you need to communicate effectively.
Your College Essay: “DDI,” an acronym for “Daddy Did It,” is used by colleges to flag admissions essays that were possibly written not by students, but by their parents. It is vital to develop your own tone and voice as you write because it allows you to present your most authentic self in your work. Zinsser again has some words of wisdom: “since style is who you are, you only need to be true to yourself to find it gradually emerging from under the clutter.” Too often, students try to affect a certain tone that they think will please the reader, but your personal tone and voice are actually more appealing to the audience than are measures of overdoing it, like intentionally using “big words” or writing to sound like you are older and wiser. Being yourself in a college essay is absolutely vital. Admissions officers are smart; they’ll know if you’re writing in disguise.
Your School Papers: From middle school on, you will be writing papers. You may be a “math person.” You’ll still have to write papers. You may hate to read. You’ll still have to write papers. Look at it as a skill as necessary as knowing your multiplication tables. The work and the skill-building must begin early in order to create a well-rounded writer who is ready for college-level writing and beyond. If you feel you have deficits in your writing fundamentals, do not hesitate to seek out a tutor and use online resources. Again, OWL comes in handy in this regard.
Communications with Teachers and Administrators: College professors will often bemoan the informal communications they receive from students. If, for instance, you are going to be absent from class, you would do well to send an email that is well-written and grammatically correct. You may have to ask a detailed question about a paper or assignment, or submit a project proposal via email. Additionally, you may need to communicate with admission officers or coaches, particularly if you are being recruited for a sport. You’d be shocked at the number of emails that go out without a salutation (“Dear Jane,) or missing a closing (“Best regards”.) It simply does not look good when you send an error-ridden note that’s garbled and informal. Reread it before you hit send, and make sure you’ve used a respectful, mature tone.
You can look at writing as a personal transaction, through which you must convey your authentic self in a well-structured, fundamentally correct, and comprehensible way. Starting to hone your skills at a young age is vital, as the number of written communications in which you will engage will only increase as you move up the academic ladder and beyond.
Written by Phil Lane
Contact us today to learn more about how our tutors can help your child improve their writing skills!