Creative people have every reason to object if anyone tries to impose restrictions on what they can and cannot say, write, read, sing or play. Freedom of expression is a fundamental pillar of a creative person’s life, but whatever your specialism, there are boundaries.
Musicians, for example, tune their instruments and play the right notes. Actors follow the director’s instructions and stick to the script. And, by the same token, writers must use language correctly.
These days, with the advent of the internet, email, social media and text messaging, pretty much everyone is a writer. Even if you don’t use the written word to directly earn your income, we all need to communicate effectively with our keyboards.
Whatever you write – from a simple email, to a LinkedIn profile or the ‘about’ section of your website – people will assess you on your ability with words. If you cannot describe yourself or your services accurately and meaningfully, then you could lose out on work opportunities.
The poor use of words is evident wherever you look: from corporate websites riddled with management-speak; to long-winded letters from your bank. Even seemingly-small errors – like superfluous or missing apostrophes – can make all the difference to how other people perceive you.
If you feel that your writing could improve, then you are not alone, and it is almost certainly not your fault. It is an unfortunate fact that for the last twenty years or so, teachers in the UK have been instructed to not penalise students for making grammatical, spelling and punctuation mistakes.
In placing creative expression above all other considerations, this educational philosophy certainly has some merit but it has undoubtedly contributed to Britain being placed a dismal twenty-first out of 24 developed countries in a league table of literacy (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-24433320)
Bad habits are hard to shake off, and although your friends will not judge you on your errors, employers, potential clients and people you might meet on social media may not be so forgiving. While creativity should be encouraged, it does not have to be at the expense of accuracy or, indeed, intelligibility.
Being able to write clearly and persuasively is good for business. And although you may struggle to find the right words and express yourself as you would like, if you follow the principles outlined in the next two blog entries, your writing will improve dramatically.