When Joseph Brodsky gave a commencement speech at the Dartmouth University, he outlined 6 essentials for living a wholesome life. While most commencement speeches stress on courage, action, kindness and even drive graduates towards using their failures well (see J. K. Rowling’s The Fringe Benefits of Failure), Joseph Brodsky’s first piece of advice is to pay attention to one’s vocabulary. In his intelligent and piercing speech, as he provides six commandments to a group on the brink of creating world history, he starts small. The smallest and most important thing one can do is pay careful attention to what one has to say.
Communication – whether written or verbal – is the harbinger of life, and all things that follow. It’s not paid much attention to because there is false notion of how there are things greater than language and vocabulary. I beg to differ, there are not. For how are you going to say exactly what you mean? How are you going to sell exactly what you manufacture? How are you going to confess to those deep desires and fears in front of those you love? How, if you don’t have the right writing skills, is your resume going to articulate why one should hire you?
Yes, letter writing is on the verge of becoming obsolete (almost), but how many people on the Internet type away to glory with no notion of wrong spellings and grammar? A hugely horrifying number, I must say. Paying attention to what one writes and says is not a matter of snob value. But it is, as Brodsky has said, adding to the development of self. How many of us carve ourselves inch by inch? More and more people take language for granted these days, not knowing how the very words that one has learnt are going to be their bane or their salvation. Since that’s the case, one must pay urgent attention to what they have to say and write. Is it not?
And yet, there is a lackadaisical attitude about what one writes – whether it be on the Internet, to a potential employer/date, or even at work. The other day I received an email at the office, where I currently expend every last ounce of energy. In that email, the sender had asked someone to take an action, and yet the person who was supposed to take action was not marked in the email. Additionally, there were a few abbreviations that I had never read, thus making this email a piece of communication that held no meaning for me. Life has gone on and unless someone intercedes, no action will be taken. Not to aggrandize this situation that I can easily fix, but simply imagine, if we multiply the occurrences of incidents, more and more people will communicate in ways that will eventually help no one. On a large enough timespan, this incident is so miniscule, that it doesn’t matter a cinch. But magnify this, make it bigger, and see how everyone misplaces what needs to be said at the workplace. Not only will no work get done, but also there will be greater unrest among people. If one had to paint the picture of a dystopian society where writing doesn’t matter, it would certainly take us back to the barbaric ages. That’s why language. That’s why writing skills. That’s why paying attention to the words one puts down.
Since nothing works well without supporting evidence here’s an excellent infographic by Grammarly to substantiate the claim that writing well, pays well. Literally at that.
Let’s come back to why one needs to work on writing skills in the current, commercial sense of the word. Why not, really? Don’t we want to be writers, copywriters, lawyers, managers, coders, and what not? For a minute, let’s forget our language helps better our innate selves, but it does add to our pockets and workplace well-being. Isn’t that incentive enough?
I learnt how to write a letter from my father when I was only a little child. In those days, he taught me how to align the address on one side, the salutation on another, the format of a date, and the ‘Yours sincerely’ signature at the bottom of the page. Since then, I have used my letter writing skills to write letters to penfriends, to my favourite authors, to land jobs, and yes, even to Regional Managers for customer service/complaints.
Research has proven that a well-written piece of text – be it a document, email, or even this very infographic – is taken seriously if the writing skills are exceptional. It’s the age of the Internet, where everything one says in censured. With the advent of the Grammar Nazis, the importance of writing skills has gone up much more. Well, there’s no escaping that writing pays, literally and figuratively.
As a small attempt to brighten this world with better grammar, as a giveaway on this blog, you can get yourself a free test premium account for Grammarly. All you have to do is post one long, single, original, grammar-free sentence in the comments section. (Long sentence because the tricky part, always, is the correct use of punctuation.)
Of course, the more ‘original’ and ‘quirky’ the sentence, the better.
Let the writing begin.
Like you mentioned, a lot goes on in a single sentence that talks about perfecting, or, vying to perfect, the art of writing and also maintaining the coherence expected from a piece of literature; the extent to which a writer might go, to get his prose to hit the mark, or to simply add a form of glamour known to only writers, sometimes called flowery, or purple, if you must, gets in the way and destroys the very stroke which the writer tried to produce.
🙂 That’s awesome. And I know exactly what you mean.