Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Reading-Writing Continuum Revisited

Bill: How can I improve my writing?
Phil: Do you read?
Bill: Not much.
Phil: Then read a lot more. That's a start.
Bill: Read what?
Phil: What do you read now?
Bill: Just work stuff.
Phil: That will make you a subject-matter expert but not necessarily a good writer. Read outside your field to become a better writer.
Jill: Unlike Bill, English is not my first language. How can I improve my writing?
Phil: Do you read a lot in English?
Jill: Mostly in my native language.
Phil: Then you have to read twice as much as Bill. Read outside your field in your native language to keep fresh, and outside your field in English to pick up the elements of excellent English writing. 

Writing a lot is only half of becoming a good writer. You have to read a lot too, as eclectically as possible. I know I have made this point before in this blog, but it is so important, especially these days, when people scan and skip more words than they read. 

I showed a more simplified form of this illustration in an earlier post, and I have revised it not to complicate the reading-writing connection, but to clarify it for those who need to write more complex messages as they move up and across their organizations. It plainly shows how you can't do one without the other.