I reflect on the one thing I would have done differently and why I think it matters.
Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!
[This podcast was originally published February 23, 2006. -Leo]
I sometimes wonder at how I got here. Not in the biological sense, I mean
the long strange trip that ended up here with websites like Ask Leo! and
podcasts such as this one.
And if I had to do it all over again, what one thing would I change?
I would have paid more attention in English class. Heck, I would have taken
more English, grammar and writing classes.
The bottom line is that regardless of your profession, writing – especially
in this internet-enabled age – is becoming more and more critical. The ability
to express yourself clearly and even entertainingly is often a key
differentiator between being good at a job and being great at it.
I hated writing in school – absolutely hated it. It wasn’t until I started
working a real job that I discovered that not only could I write relatively
well (though I couldn’t spell to save my life – I still can’t), I actually
kinda sorta enjoyed it.
What I hated in school wasn’t writing. It was writing about things I knew
nothing about and wasn’t interested in. Once I got past that words started to, well, to trickle out. I’m certainly not about to write the next great American novel, but write I do.
I bring this up because of the number of people who write to me who, to put
it bluntly, can’t. They fall into two camps: non-native speakers for whom
English is a second language, and those who’ve grown up speaking English but
still couldn’t write their way out of a paper bag. While I have a lot of
sympathy for the first group (technically, English is my second language too),
I have very little for the second.
Sad as it is, both groups are at a severe disadvantage. It may not be fair,
it may not be politically correct, but the practical reality of the internet is
that speaking and writing English well matters.
There used to be a commercial for some vocabulary product that began “People
judge you by the words you use …”. It’s not fair, but it’s very, very true.
You may be the smartest, coolest, most wonderful and professional person on the
planet, but if your email and your internet posts and your other writings sound
like a spoiled teenager who didn’t finish high school, don’t be surprised if
that’s exactly how you’re treated.
I’d love to hear what you think. Visit askleo.info, and enter 9702 in the go to article number box. Leave a comment, I read them all. And while you’re there: sign up for my free weekly newsletter.
This is a presentation of askleo.info, a free on-line technical question and answer service. Hundreds of questions and answers are online and ready to help solve your computer problems.