May 11, 2015
If your work life is anything like mine, then you spend much of your day writing. The amount we write for our jobs is shocking.
We write reports. We write presentations. We write tweets. We write blog posts and blog comments. We write for the web. We write to persuade. We write to recommend. We write for internal and external audiences. We write to connect and we write to distance. We write to clarify and we write to obscure. We write to get and give information. We write for our direct reports and for our bosses. We write for colleagues. We write for our students. We write, and we write, and we write.
Most of all, we write e-mails. Lots and lots of e-mails.
With all this writing, you would think that we would get better at the task. (And by we, I mean me.) Only a few of us (and I’m not including myself) know how to write really well.
I’m totally jealous of those of you who are good writers. If I could change anything about my education, it would to have had more opportunities to become a better writer. I would take every course where a professor critiqued my writing. Give me writing courses, English courses, and journalism courses, and courses in rhetoric, argument, and composition.
From what I’ve observed, the best campus writers fall into the following 6 groups:
1. Writing Teachers: You guys are the best writers, the most gifted storytellers, and the most clear-eyed on the weirdness of the modern university.
2. Editors of Academic Journals: You must be a good writer because you are exposed to so much bad writing.
3. Academics Who Write for a Popular Audience: Those of you that can switch between academic lingo and non-specialist prose are twice as blessed.
4. Writers Who Were Journalists: There seems to be a critical mass of ex-journalists on campus. These colleagues can write us under the table.
5. Colleagues With Publishing Backgrounds: Why do so many people switch from the publishing to academia - and why can all of you write so well?
6. Anyone With an MFA: You have a terminal degree in creative writing, training that comes in handy in academia.
Who are the best writers on your campus?
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