“[Writing] is the currency of the new workplace and the global economy” and drives our “communication, learning and citizenship in our digital age.”
– National Writing Project
Your ability to write well and judge quality writing has never been more important.
Between crafting emails, writing reports, reading content, providing social media updates and more, we spend a lot of our time creating and absorbing writing. And the value of this currency is built on far more than grammar proficiency or correct word choice.
To write — or even just communicate — effectively, you need to have the skills to analyze a situation, compose your ideas and express your perspectives. You need to know how to test out your thoughts and refine them based on results. Ultimately, you need to be a strong critical thinker, a skill that is fostered through the process of learning to write — and matters in every industry, no matter your profession.
Take, for example, computer programming.
One might surmise that a programmer wouldn’t have to worry about how well they can write English, since the main focus of their profession is writing code. But according to Senior Software Engineer Bernard Meisler, the difference between a good coder and a great one lies in their ability to understand and construct a logical sentence. Why? Coding is built on a complex logic foundation strikingly similar to language construction.
A programmer’s critical thinking skills (gained by learning to write) directly affects their ability to arrive at a coding situation, look at different angles, identify issues, and create (and refine) a response.
As a result, writing skills are becoming “must have” abilities for today’s designers and programmers.
And for many employers, your writing skills may make or break their decision to hire you, like Basecamp’s focus on only hiring strong writers, no matter the position. In fact, 73.4% of employers that are hiring specifically want people with strong writing skills. Their concern lies not just in whether you can clearly and correctly communicate; your writing can reflect important professional lineaments, such as how fast (or slow) a learner you are and how well you pay attention to details.
So, writing skills — and the corresponding abilities they foster — truly are a currency that affect a professional’s value in the workplace. Unfortunately, our society’s not keeping up with our 21st–century currency demands.
Despite the positive impacts writing has on brain development, more and more governments and school systems are eliminating or greatly reducing writing-focused lessons to cut education budgets (such as in 2011, when Illinois completely stopped testing high school juniors’ writing skills; and in 2017, Michigan reduced assessment testing by drastically shortening its writing assessments and removing testing for critical thinking and problem solving).
And the results are clear: Writing skills are the #3 top skill employers want in employees, across industries (with related communication skills #1). Sadly, one in five U.S. workers also reads at a lower skill level than their job requires of them.
Of course, educational budget cuts aren’t the sole contributors to the state of writing and reading skills in this country. But by choosing to disregard how learning (or not learning) to write impacts us, we’re hindering our society’s contributions in the digital age. Here, technology changes constantly and staying competitive is harder than before.
Just as the decline of a country’s currency direly impacts its citizens, so too does devaluing writing as a currency. And when we foster a society where adults struggle to think critically and write clearly, how can we possibly expect to continue excelling in a global marketplace?