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Writing is a skill

Lady Gaga can sing

Lady Gaga – more skilled at singing than most

Singing is just saying words in time to music, really. I even get requests to sing most days – Twinkle Twinkle and once I caught a fish alive are some of the most frequent requests. So it’s probably time I recorded my first album and gave Lady Gaga a run for her money isn’t it?

I know how to run, too – it’s like walking only you pump your arms and go faster. So I think I will join the Australian Olympic team, but can’t be bothered training much before London.

Do those ideas sound a little silly?

Assessing your own skill sets

Obviously there are many things I can do (cook, draw, throw a ball, hammer a nail, first aid and dance just to name a few) but most of those things I can’t do well enough to call myself an expert or expect money or fame for.

So why do so many people think that because they know how to form letters with a pen or type, they know how to write to a commercial standard?

Acknowledging that writing is a skill

I have come across a lot of examples lately where people think they will start an online writing career for easy cash or because they like the freestyle lifestyle. And others who ‘offer writing expertise’ while demonstrating they can’t spell or write a coherent sentence.

It frustrates me – not because I feel they are any threat to me (my clients want quality and can tell the difference between poor and good writing) but because it cheapens the efforts of quality, skilled writers (like Paul Hassing, Sarah Mitchell, Lorraine Thompson, Desolie Page and Belinda Weaver to name a small sample).

It angers me when these same people put information out there that is wrong or easily misunderstood. If their readers don’t know any better, they could be lead into costly mistakes. Good writers not only write well but, for less known topics, research the material or get expert assistance on the content before posting any content online.

Writing well is a skill – aspects of it can be learnt (such as how to spell correctly and when to use a capital letter) but  much of it comes naturally and through experience. Reading and learning contribute to the skills of a writer, so even great writers can improve.

I can write well. I can sing – but only well enough to entertain my toddlers and enjoy myself (Lady Gaga need not fear me as competition!) I know the difference between those skill sets and use them accordingly. Is it so much to ask that other people realistically assess their skills, too?

25 Responses to Writing is a skill

  • UmiNoor says:

    Writing is indeed a skill. Some writers are born with the talent to form exquisite prose but the majority of writers have to learn this skill and work hard to improve it.

    I think I can understand your frustration at some writers that can’t even be bothered to proof read what they’ve written before having them published and then have the gall to call themselves writers. It’s the responsibility of writers to make sure that they produce the best work.

    • tashword says:

      Absolutely, UmiNoor – any professional needs to know their field and demonstrate that knowledge. We wouldn’t accept a doctor who doesn’t know what a femur is or who holds a stethoscope the wrong way, so why should we accept writers who don’t know basic grammar or care to proof read?

  • godric says:

    I absolutely agree that writing is a skill. Although I can totally understand how frustrating it is to see our cherished art be degraded, one thing I would like to point out is that a skill needs training. Because of the internet and heavy competition, people still in training gets the opportunity to publish their work.

    • tashword says:

      Good to hear writing described as a cherished art, Godric – thank you 🙂

      I agree that writing gets better with practice so some training is required. It’s more that those people who are training/learning should not be calling themselves experts or charging money before they have any skills. A trainee doctor can’t call themselves “Dr Smith” and set up surgery to learn on the job; new teachers get to do teaching rounds under supervision and being declared as a trainee; training is good, claiming skills beyond your training is not so good.

  • janicecai1 says:

    I agree that writing is a skill. However, I just think that some people are born with a natural talent to write while some just can’t. They may be great speakers, but they are not great writers. They even hire ghost writers for their speeches. I have experienced it. There are some people who are very willing and they do improve in writing. When you write, you should at least try to be logical with the flow of ideas.

    • tashword says:

      Completely agree with you, janicecai1. People have different natural skills, whether it is writing, public speaking or something else, and ability in one doesn’t automatically mean ability in another. Improvement is always possible and admirable but not everyone can learn enough to be good at a skill they don’t have naturally.

      Having written some speeches, I also agree that the speaker doesn’t always come up with their own words – but if it is their ideas and their great presentation, it doesn’t matter to their audience who actually wrote the words.

  • shantald06 says:

    Writing is a skill. Those are indeed true words. Most of learning to write comes from reading. Reading aloud helps with writing, as well. Putting emphasis on stressed words, punctuation, and meaning of words help to tell a better story. When you can read well, telling the story with character, you can write well.

    • tashword says:

      A lot can gained by reading – which is a great excuse for me to have to read lots of books to keep up my skills, lol!

      Reading out loud can give so much more depth to a story – and is a really useful tool for proof reading as you can pick out faults in flow and emphasis, etc that your eyes may miss. Reading with interest and character can make the story come alive but I think that is a different skill to writing – each would help the other but not all good writers read very well and not all good readers could actually put together a great story.

  • Anna T says:

    Writing is definitely not something that comes easily to everyone. I do believe that some are naturally capable of it while others struggle with it.

    There are a great deal of people who are attempting to earn money by writing online when they do not have that natural gift.

    But I agree that it’s a skill you can develop over time. A person who works hard at it may eventually be able to make a living writing, but it might never come as easily to them as it does to someone who had the ability naturally.

    • tashword says:

      I always took it for granted how easy it is to write as I didn’t realise not everyone could do so – I definitely agree some people write naturally and others don’t. It can be learnt to some level (it would take a LOT of work if you had no natural ability to start with as it’s more than learning grammar rules) but I wonder if it’s worth striving for – is there something those people could do well naturally rather than struggle to learn writing? I know I don’t want to learn a skill from scratch unless I am passionate about it in some way.

  • wameyo says:

    Very well put Tashword, writing is a skill that every writer wannabee needs to learn to produce quality content that will both be of value to the reader and the writer.

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  • Tashword says:

    I have just added this post to My Home Truth’s Monday confessions 🙂

  • Janet
    Twitter:
    says:

    If you’ve written (and published) a book, they think they can write a book. When I worked in a library, everybody thought they could work in a library (never mind that there were over 500 applications for the 2 positions, one of which I eventually landed after a rigorous selection process). I figure it’s kind of a back handed compliment ie we make it look so easy everybody thinks they can do it!

  • Ness
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’m writing my blog as a hobby, purely for fun. I’m not earning a cent from it and don’t consider myself a professional writer at all. Having said that, I have a horrible, sinking feeling that my writing isn’t as good as I’d like it to be, especially as I considered English to be one of my best subjects when I was at school and have always been a keen reader. I’d certainly love to improve where ever I can. I might consider doing a course or the like when my youngest child heads to school next year but I’m not quite sure which one. Decisions! Great post. xo

    • TashWord says:

      hi Ness, I think there is a big difference between someone writing as a hobby and someone selling their writing as a professional, and thus there are different expectations of each.

      From what I’ve seen, your writing flows and makes sense so don’t sell yourself short 🙂 Reading and writing are two of the best ways to improve your writing skills in my book so you’re already on the way!

  • Ed
    Twitter:
    says:

    Glad to discover your blog.

    Writing is definitely a skill – and your use of commas before the word “too” at the end of sentences suggests you’ve got skills I didn’t even know existed! You may have addressed this elsewhere but do you see these sorts of commas as good practice or merely optional?

    • TashWord says:

      Hi Ed, and thanks for leaving a comment.

      Officially, yes there should be a comma before words like too – I don’t consider it is optional but I suspect it will become used less in the trend of minimising punctuation in modern English. However, it just looks wrong to me to skip the comma!

      A little explanation and clarification – if the word ‘too’ means also or in addition to, add in a comma:
      I went to Mary’s, too.
      I, too, prefer hot chocolate over coffee.

      The comma can help with clarity – for example, ‘I went to the café too’ could be read as I went to a place called café too. ‘I went to the café, too’ is unambiguous.

      On the other hand, if ‘too’ means a lot of something, no comma is added:
      I am too tired to work today.
      This year’s Problogger event is too far away for me.

  • Kirsty
    Twitter:
    says:

    I do agree with this Tash. I am happy to call myself a blogger but I hesitate to call myself a writer. I think there is a world of difference between the two – anyone can start a blog but not everyone can write to a professional standard that is worthy of being paid!

    • TashWord says:

      Absolutely, Kirsty. It’s just like thinking a friend cooked me a beautiful meal but I may have had higher expectations if I’d gone to a fancy restaurant to eat a meal cooked by a professional chef. Both meals are perfectly fine, but one is not at the professional standard.

  • Odessa
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi
    Just saw this article today. I like to think of writing as also an art. I don’t know if my interpretetion is authentic but I think the difference between a skill and art is that the other has to be learned and the other comes naturally. So in the case of writing, I think even if one has been taught, for it to come out more appealing (like in how you wrote this article) then maybe one also need to have an inert talent for it.

    • TashWord says:

      Hi Odessa, I agree that there is an art to writing and personally I find writing easy and instinctive. My point in this article is that some people can write well and others can’t – and I wish those who can’t wouldn’t try presenting themselves as writers! Everyone can learn more and become more skilful, but an innate skills can’t be taught.

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