Every now and then I feel compelled to raise the idea of the powerful connection between reading and writing because it comes as such a revelation to so many people. In nearly every class I teach, I say, "You become a better reader by reading a lot, but you become a better writer by writing and reading a lot."
Even many highly educated people have not reflected on this truth. I have met accountants, engineers, executives, lawyers, scientists, and professionals from many other disciplines tell me that they so strongly desire to become better writers. Yet when I ask whether they read regularly, many say no. Then it ain't gonna happen.
I have spent years teaching the writing process: plan, draft, revise, edit, and proofread. But the real process is a reading-writing one. To be a successful writer, you must read and write. A look at the accompanying graphic starting from the upper left box explains:
- READ to know what to write. Reading will inform, persuade, and inspire you as a writer, so read with an aim toward mining for ideas.
- WRITE to take key notes. While you are reading, take notes to capture ideas that you want to express.
- READ to evaluate your notes. Now that you have scribbled some notes, determine the best place to slip them in your draft and the best way to express them.
- WRITE to draft the ideas. During this phase, you are writing with a mindset of quantity, not quality, so that you will have a complete draft, if not necessarily a neat one.
- READ to assess content and structure. As you are revising, check for purposefulness of content; emphasis, unity, and coherence of paragraphing, consistency of format, and cohesiveness of style.
- WRITE to focus the ideas. As you do step 5, move, add, and delete ideas based on your reader's perspective.
- READ to make sense of the draft. Now that you are editing, read sentences aloud for fluency and congruity.
- WRITE to sharpen the style. In tandem with step 7, rewrite ambiguous, verbose, awkward, or weak phrases.
- READ to find overlooked mistakes. In the final proofreading stage, read not for meaning, which you have already done in step 7, but for grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors.
- WRITE to perfect the message. You have found those mistakes in step 9, so correct them.