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Writing Skills

When one says 'writing skills', this word “writing” has various connotations for different people: one can think of the writing a writer does as a profession, another can think of the writing section of an exam in English, whereas another one can think of the letters and words he’s just finished spraying on the wall somewhere, generating yet another graffiti in the world and finding himself creative as a result…

Dismissing the third example, we shall consider first of all the basic abilities of writing in English – the general craft one needs, before going on to the more specific craft one needs in order to use writing within the large spectrum of this art, whether it is writing poetry, prose, journalism, writing for television or radio and one can carry on enumerating. But that comes later – much later. Let’s start with the beginning.

Similar to our use of grammar (according to what it is that you wish to express, you may select certain words and you would use them in a certain way, not otherwise), we shall firstly consider the use of words in building our messages – from sentences to paragraphs, for us to learn what actually goes into the skill of writing.

Let us take the message of Sir Ernest Gowers, who wrote in his book “Plain Words”, first published in 1948 and which became the reference book “The Complete Plain Words” – a necessary companion for anybody who wants to learn how to say what needs to be said. At the end of his prologue in this manual, he urged the reader to pause and think about writing:

“Let us therefore agree, before we go any further, that a reasonably good standard of writing is a mark not of preciosity but of good sense, not of prissiness but of efficiency; that such a standard can be attained by anyone with a little effort; that the effort will be worthwhile…; that it requires neither hairsplitting nor self-consciousness but merely a willingness to acquire good habits; and, finally, that a writer with good habits may be allowed to make an occasional slip, just as a good doctor or lawyer may occasionally give the wrong advice or a good cashier the wrong change, without incurring eternal damnation.”

This, put simply, wants to say that:
-    Good writing is a sign of efficiency in using the words;
-    Everybody who wants to do it, can;
-    The effort it requires is simply about building good habits;
-    That even with good habits, mistakes are sometimes acceptable.

If I leave you contemplate on this until next time and give you an exercise to do in the meanwhile, I would like to hear from you by then, with the answer to the exercise I shall propose here:

Why Write?

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