Abraham Lincoln often said that he taught himself through reading. This is true of many great leaders. The ability to read means that people can educate themselves to overcome problems.
Unfortunately, today we receive much information by radio, TV, and other multi-media sources. Yet none of these mechanisms have the ability to improve our reading skills. In addition, in the workplace we have so much to read we often skim documents without actually forming the words in our minds. We pick out what we want to read – until our eyes are distracted by spelling and grammar errors. And this is where the problem lies.
I was recently asked to work with a man in his early 30s who has almost all the tools to climb high within his company. However, his manager is concerned about promoting him because of his poor writing skills. Even though he uses a spelling and grammar check, his emails appear sloppy: wrong verb endings, missing words, and run-on sentences.
The manager believes – and rightly so – that this man’s emails present a poor image of him and also reflect badly on their company, which brands itself as a highly professional organization.
In case you are wondering, English is not the man’s first language. But he did graduate from a Canadian high school and university.
My first step was to ask the young man to print out his emails and to read them aloud to me. He found it difficult. He wasn’t used to reading this way. Like many writers in the business world, he can’t catch his own errors because he just can’t see them. I am beginning to think this may be a problem facing many of today’s writers.
People do not read carefully anymore. Another man who was attending one of my grammar workshops professed his strong desire to be totally fluent in English. But when I asked what he read he said he only liked to read in his native language. He was too busy to read an English newspaper.
If you don’t read, you won’t be comfortable with sentence structure and word choice. If you want to be a good writer, you must read. Read anything: newspapers, billboards, cereal boxes. And try to read aloud – to anyone who will listen.
That’s how we’ll create better writers in the workforce.