"Bad writing makes bright people look dumb," says William Zinsser. I cannot think of a more convincing or succinct argument than this to tell you how much harm bad writing does to you.
I am an insufferable grammar Nazi, and nothing makes me madder than reading a poorly written text. I do not claim to be an expert, but I try my best to write well. And it drives me up the wall when I see 'smart' people write sloppily. Bad speech is still tolerable because of regional influences, but bad writing is unacceptable.
Often, the first introduction you have with a person is through the written medium.
Modern means of communication requires us to write every day. Often, the first introduction you have with a person is through the written medium. It is your first chance at making an impression. And this is where a lot of people fail, even smart people. Not capitalising the first letter of your name and surname, bad spelling, lack of punctuation, poor grammar, all these are sure-shot ways of ruining that first impression.
The worst trespass of all is the abominable texting language, where people choose to omit or add letters at will. I find it impossible to comprehend such messages! It might have been acceptable when there was a limit on the character count, but you have absolutely no excuse to use it with the advent of free instant messaging and e-mail. I can't help but roll my eyes when I receive a text message saying, 'Tank uh oll', or 'Mah lyf, Mah rulz'. Seriously! What were you thinking when you wrote this? Your smartphone can compose a better message even without you TRYING to type! Don't kill the language please.
I can't help but roll my eyes when I receive a text message saying, 'Mah lyf, Mah rulz'.
It sends hot blood to my brain just thinking about it. I'm going to try and calm down and list some reasons why you should avoid bad writing at all costs. Trust me, you have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain, just by putting in a little extra effort.
1. Bad writing makes you appear incompetent
When you overlook grammar while writing, the reader subconsciously thinks of you as incompetent. You might not be able to gain his/her trust, and you might be thought of as being ineffective at performing the task at hand.
2. Bad writing makes you appear lazy and insincere
All modern day word processors and smartphones come with in-built mechanisms to check spelling and grammar. They also automatically capitalise the I's and the first letter of a sentence if you have followed the spacing rules correctly. With all these tools available to you, you have to be extremely lazy to write something that has bad grammar.
I was recently doing a survey of all the possible schools I could send my child to and many schools were struck off my list just because their websites had grammatical errors.
3. Bad writing is bad for your career
Didn't get called to that job interview? Missed a promotion? Blame it on bad writing. Even if your profile is impressive, if you have been sloppy with your grammar, you will be ticking a lot of wrong boxes in the reader's mind, and may lose out to a person who took the time to write a cover letter carefully, and proofread it.
4. Bad writing is bad for business
I was recently doing a survey of all the possible schools I could send my child to. The first step was to visit their websites. And trust me, many schools were struck off my list just because their websites had grammatical errors. I just couldn't trust those schools to do a good job teaching my child. Likewise, you too can be sure that your business will be negatively affected if you have not been careful with the content you put up on your website, business proposal or brochure.
5. Bad writing is a hindrance to higher education and research
It is unfortunate but true that unless you have a good command over the English language, you will find it extremely difficult to get your original ideas published in an international peer reviewed journal. Many reviewers reject papers just because they find the writing bad, without regard to the soundness of the hypothesis or credibility of the accompanying proof. I come from a research intensive STEM background, and I have often found myself in a better position than my peers because of good writing and presentation skills.
Didn't get called to that job interview? Missed a promotion? Blame it on bad writing.
6. Bad writing annoys people
Just like me, I'm sure that there are many otherwise calm people who get very annoyed when they read a piece that has bad grammar. You might be putting them off.
7. Bad writing causes miscommunication
Grammatical errors greatly reduce the clarity of your writing, and you might end up not conveying what you intended to. It also takes a lot of extra effort to try and comprehend a badly written text, something that the reader may not have the time or patience for.
8. Bad writing reflects poor thinking skills
"Good writing is the reflection of a mind well-equipped for thinking, decision making and problem solving" writes Mark James Miller. Which means that the opposite is likely true if you write badly.
9. Bad writing will make you the butt of jokes
Although I don't support this, it is likely that you will be made fun of if you write poorly. It will also give other people a chance to belittle you if they don't find you likable. Also, if you are addressing an American, for instance, it might help to be aware of some of the differences in usage of the English language. Words such as 'lift' or 'rubber' have different meanings for them.
10. Bad writing makes you unattractive
As if all of the reasons listed above aren't enough, bad grammar could put a spanner in your hopes for finding the love of your life. People are unwilling to respond to badly written dating profiles, and with bad writing you may forever stay lonely. :(
I hope the above has convinced you to work on improving your writing skills. I try to learn something new every day, and you should too! As I said, there's nothing to lose and a lot to gain!