Let me preface my remarks by admitting that I am, by both profession and temperament, a grammarian. Perhaps to the annoyance of some, I have gone so far as to suggest that the management of a supermarket change the sign over the express line from “10 items or less,” to “10 items or fewer.” I am sensitive to the nuances of the language, sometimes to my own detriment, as hearing a friend say “I feel badly,” sounds like the proverbial nails on a chalkboard to me. Having admitted that, I can go forth to explain why excellent writing skills can contribute to success in school, in business, and in life.
According to guidelines from Marquette University, “Writing is the primary basis upon which your work, your learning, and your intellect will be judged—in college, in the workplace, and in the community.” Marquette credits both Brown University and the University of Missouri when providing specifics. I agree with each of the points listed below:
- Writing expresses who you are as a person.
- Writing is portable and permanent. It makes your thinking visible.
- Writing helps you move easily among facts, inferences, and opinions without getting confused—and without confusing your reader.
- Writing promotes your ability to pose worthwhile questions.
- Writing fosters your ability to explain a complex position to readers, and to yourself.
- Writing helps others give you feedback.
- Writing helps you refine your ideas when you give others feedback.
- Writing requires that you anticipate your readers’ needs. Your ability to do so demonstrates your intellectual flexibility and maturity.
- Writing ideas down preserves them so that you can reflect upon them later.
- Writing out your ideas permits you to evaluate the adequacy of your argument.
- Writing stimulates you to extend a line of thought beyond your first impressions or gut responses.
- Writing helps you understand how truth is established in a given discipline.
- Writing equips you with the communication and thinking skills you need to participate effectively in democracy.
- Writing is an essential job skill.
As with anything worth doing well, writing takes practice. Writers must understand the mechanics of writing: those include grammar, punctuation, and spelling. The ability to phrase thoughts well comes with the ability to discriminate between parts of speech, sentence length and variety, and effective punctuation.
Educators must make grammar and writing skills priorities in our system. Writing programs should begin in earnest in first grade, when students learn to read. The emergent reader can certainly understanding the function of the basic building blocks of sentences—verbs and nouns. By the time they reach third grade, students should understand all eight parts of speech. Once they possess a strong grammatical foundation, they can venture into expository writing, with frequent feedback from trained professionals. Only then, can they produce effective writing.