Tip #5: Learn to write well

“The only way I know to become a good writer is to be a bad writer and keep on improving”

–          Thomas Sowell

I don’t know what career you intend to pursue. You may become a STEM specialist. Maybe you’ll be a lawyer or go into business. Perhaps you will go into education or become a web designer. Whatever you do in life, odds are you will need to know how to write well.

The physical book may or may not be dead in the 21st century, but textual communication is alive and well. Whether it’s e-mail or Word, the digital world is based almost entirely on writing. If you want to succeed in this world, you will need to know how to write clearly for multiple audiences and in different formats such as letters, essays and so on. Whether you’re writing to the tax authorities, a school principal, the editor of a newspaper or your boss, clear writing is key to getting your point across and getting things done.

In truth, you should have already been prepared for this in high school. My father and his generation were given a very strict and very rigorous education in proper composition. In fact, if I had been required to take a writing course in Bar-Ilan, I would have chosen my father as an instructor in a heartbeat. He could have spared me many years of non-development as a writer.

Unfortunately, you have been screwed over by an educational system that has either watered down or entirely done away with rigorous writing classes. In order to make up for this, you will need to do a lot of hard work by yourself, taking courses and reading books to help you improve. Perhaps even form a ‘writers’ circle’ with some of your friends where you each help each other get better in your work.

Improvement in your writing will not happen overnight, but rather over a period of many years. Nevertheless, the more you work on it the better you will become, and the more you will be effective in getting your message out. Few people are “born” good writers, and if you are not one of the few – you can still make yourself into one.

NEXT: Tip #6: Don’t replace one rigid dogma with another rigid dogma

UPDATE: Fred is right – getting writing skills through a system is easier for most. So if you are going to college, make sure to take courses in writing or at least courses that require many writing assignments. Seek out the toughest teachers in the field, not the ones who will ‘forgive’ your mistakes and do you no favors by pandering to you. Writing is one of the skills college claims to provide – make sure you don’t leave college without it.


Hi, my name is Avi Woolf. I'm an American-Israeli MO Jew living in Israel. I have a background in Israeli (as in Land of Israel) and Jewish History and an insatiable need for knowledge. I also have professional experience as an editor, translator and indexer. Enjoy the ride! If you are interested in using my services or just want to drop me a line, contact me at: opdycke1861NOSPAM@yahoo.com
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6 Responses to Tip #5: Learn to write well

  1. fred says:

    i dont think reading books generally improves you as a writer. the best/only way is to write, write, write, and then to have the stuff critiqued.
    reading good stuff helps you write only if you read with a writers eye: looking for how the author does things, and then — and this is key — consciously write like that writer.

    you know, you really are trying to figure out ways to get a full education in non-formal ways. why dont you just find a way to get an education within the system? wouldnt that be much easier?

  2. AIWAC says:

    “I dont think reading books generally improves you as a writer.”

    Did you click on the link? It was a reference to a ‘writer’s guide’ known as ‘The Elements of Style’.

    “why dont you just find a way to get an education within the system? wouldnt that be much easier?”

    Because I know of few ‘systems’ that are good with this. Nevertheless, I will add a section on formal education.

  3. Jonathan B. Horen says:

    “e-mail” is an adjective describing “messages”; when used as a noun, it serves both singular and plural (“I went online to check my e-mail”). “e-mails” might be widespread, but it’s wrong.

    “word documents” is incorrect; you meant “Word”, referring to the word-processing component of Microsoft Office.

    “writer’s circle” is incorrect; you meant “writers’ circle”.

    When you write for others, spelling, grammar, and factual correctness are vital elements that confer “authority” on your words. If you want to marginalize your words or readers, incorporate mistakes.

  4. AIWAC says:

    Thanks, I made the necessary changes.

    Regarding “e-mails” – I am of the opinion that there comes a point where something is so widespread that it gains legitimacy even prior to official approval. “Ain’t”, after all, did end up in the dictionary.

    Shabbat Shalom,

    Avi Woolf/AIWAC

  5. Shlomo says:

    1) Not sure how many universities these days, even or especially “elite” ones, actually teach writing in a systematic way. I am thinking of my experience in college in the US…
    2) The best way to learn to write, of course, is to have an blog 🙂

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