Man is endowed with a variety of inherent ways and means of communication that set him apart from the rest of the creatures on planet Earth. Without a doubt, he is the most expressive creature in the world, although sometimes also the most introverted. It uses both spoken and written words to convey the intended message. So, the art of describing your thoughts well comes down to your writing or speaking abilities and skills. Although writing simple English is not a big challenge, weeding out the nuances of one’s writing to get the point across adequately is a huge challenge for many. While even the best writers can capture readers’ attention with their succinct descriptions of events, most of them struggle to find words or phrases that fit the content perfectly. Appropriate words are for appropriate occasions. Writing correctly and succinctly is a skill that goes beyond just using grammar in your prose. While grammar forms an essential aspect of writing, there are other aspects of writing that need to be considered while working on it. Excessive use of cliches, adverbs, bulky phrases, etc. is a good example of bad writing and something that needs to be corrected. Of course, writing is an art form, and like any other art form, it takes time and perseverance to overcome the toughest challenges one faces while writing. Believe it or not, writing, aside from speaking, is one of the oldest forms of communication in the world that still exists today.
While even the best writers can capture readers’ attention with their succinct descriptions of events, most of them struggle to find words or phrases that fit the content perfectly.
In today’s digital world, even though we no longer invest time in writing letters to each other, our daily communication is still accompanied by some form of writing, whether in text messages, e-mails. daily emails or posts you post on your social media accounts. Looking at the genesis of writing skills, we learn that one of the earliest known examples of writing dates back to 3500-3000 BCE, to the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia. This form of writing was now known as “cuneiform”, which involved the carving of various pictorial figures into stone as a means of communicating with others or recording numbers, among other functions. Even if the chosen career path does not necessarily involve writing as a form of income, being able to communicate effectively is extremely important to success in today’s competitive international job market. Think about writing emails; it doesn’t look professional if an employee sends an email to their boss or co-worker that is not well thought out and contains many errors. It will certainly be taken seriously and will negatively affect the intellectual sense of the person who writes it.
Therefore, writing is an important skill for language production. However, it is considered a difficult skill, especially in English as a Second Language (ESL) contexts where students face many writing challenges. There are many credible research studies conducted with the aim of investigating the writing problems of Pakistani ESL learners and the factors that hinder their writing skills. These were also aimed at getting suggestions on how to improve the writing skills of Pakistani ESL learners. To this end, focus groups of Pakistani English teachers and undergraduate ESL learners were held. Writing samples were also collected from undergraduate ESL learners to find major writing problems. Interviews and essays were analyzed using thematic content analysis. The results revealed that the main writing problems of Pakistani undergraduate ESL learners were insufficient language proficiency (including proficiency in grammar, syntax and vocabulary), writing anxiety, lack of of ideas, dependence on the L1 and the weakness of the organization of the structure. These challenges are usually caused by various factors including untrained teachers, ineffective teaching methods and examination system, lack of reading and writing practice, large classrooms, low motivation and a lack of ideas. The same studies also highlighted remedial measures such as increased reading, conscious and incidental vocabulary teaching, writing practice, teacher training, and reforms to the examination system and writing contest.
However, here are some of the most pragmatic solutions to the challenges of improving writing skills. The first and most important is practice. Practice really makes perfect. If you compare writing to a skill like cooking, or even playing a sport, you can’t expect to improve if you don’t practice – it’s like expecting to become a football player professional after training with your team. Try setting yourself daily writing exercises – they don’t have to be long and drawn out, even committing to writing one paragraph a day is enough. You can even partner up with someone else who also wants to improve their writing skills and read each other’s paragraphs to see where changes or improvements need to be made. We learn best by example, and learning writing skills is no exception. When we read, we learn how others write to convey their messages in the best way possible, and we begin to adapt our writing styles to those we resonate with the most. Incorporate daily reading into your writing exercises; maybe even make your practice paragraph a critique or summary of what you read that day, taking different elements of the author’s writing style to develop your own voice. But remember not to use complicated and long words in your writing. They often confuse the reader and disinterest them in what you have to say. Keep your sentences short but punchy. Never overuse filler words like “very”, “really”, “fair”, etc. They tend to lengthen sentences and take up your reader’s cognitive space unnecessarily. Likewise, editing is an integral part of the writing process that is completely underestimated and often overlooked. Mistakes in your writing are likely to distract from the message you’re trying to convey and diminish your reader’s confidence in your viability as a writer. The human brain often overlooks some small errors during the proofreading process, so it is highly recommended to use an online editing tool.
Last but not least is the ability to communicate with clarity. There’s nothing more frustrating than a text that doesn’t go straight to the point. Think about what you want to say, what message you want your reader to take home, and be sure to make that message clear from the start. Likewise, it is also important to think about your audience; what do they want to hear and how would they like it to be conveyed? Do you need to adopt a formal or more informal tone? Would humor help you develop your message or should you cut to the chase in a more professional way? These are important considerations that must be taken into account before even beginning the writing process. Sometimes the hardest part of the writing process is sitting down and doing the writing. At this point, you should have a clear plan of what you want to say and a general idea of how you want to say it. It may seem daunting, but remember that the hard work is now over! All you have to do is convince yourself that you are capable (which you are), sit down at your laptop or computer, and execute your communication. Putting all of this advice into practice is the real challenge. Nothing great can ever be achieved without taking concrete action. So go ahead and do it now!
The writer is a civil servant by profession, a writer by choice and a motivational speaker by passion!