Effective writing: The key to success
Having worked as a wedding planner and sales executive for several years, I have had many first-hand experiences of how essential effective writing is to employment. In the current global marketplace, the ability to communicate well with people from different cultures and social statuses is now essential to securing good jobs and advance in our career. Communication, however, is not limited to speaking, with which many of us are arguably comfortable, but includes writing as well – a skill that is more difficult to master but probably more important, especially when so many business correspondences today are conducted via email.
A huge part of my responsibility, for example, was to address written inquiries from my clients, and how I crafted my response would determine how successfully I represented my company, and if I sealed a deal. Besides ascertaining that my spelling and use of grammar were without errors, I had to also assume the right tone and register, and write courteously and with precision so that my intention to assist and the information I am providing were clearly understood. It became obvious to me that when done effectively, writing can potentially (i) result in greater customer satisfaction, (ii) foster a healthier work environment with reduced miscommunications and (iii) reinforce the organisation’s reputation, which in turn, generate higher revenue. Whether it is for a report, a formal letter, or a job application, effective writing is more than just correct sentence construction, but involves knowledge of strategies and techniques related to the skill that can help me meet my reader’s expectation and achieve my objective.
This realisation of writing’s impact on an organisation’s day-to-day operations and long-term sustainability eventually led me to pursue a degree in Bachelor of Arts and Social Sciences, majoring in writing at Monash University Malaysia. Currently in my second year (of three), I am continuously discovering from the writings units I have undertaken so far that effective writing goes beyond good spelling and grammar.
The first-year unit, Media Studies, for instance, made me realise that knowledge of different types of media texts (newspaper, television, internet, Twitter, Facebook, etc) and the formal conventions specific to each is also fundamental to effective writing. It underscored the importance of understanding a media text’s suitability to the intended information, the way it presents that information, and the formal strategies it uses to attract readers – all of which must be considered if we want our writing to achieve its purpose, whether it is to champion a cause, draw attention to a serious social issue, or drum up support for a person or an event.
Further highlighted in Media Studies is how writing inevitably embeds ideology and hence is always biased. An effective piece of writing would cleverly downplay this with language that sounds “neutral” so that readers are indirectly coerced into adopting its point-of-view. An obvious case in point would be scholarly writings; implied in the erudite jargon and dispassionate discourse they employ is often a “for” or “against” position with which the reader is encouraged to align but without being directly conscious of it. On the other hand, advertisements make use of language that sounds lucrative like “free” and “safe” to arouse buyers’ excitement, which then helps stimulate their spending desire and generate sales for the company. It is evident that writing to exert influence for a specific purpose is very much dependent on choosing the correct kind of text and tone as well, and not just writing without errors.
The units that make up the major are, however, not all related to writing. It also include several literature-based/reading-related subjects. One that I recently undertook as part of my year-two curriculum was “Postcolonial and Diaspora Literature”, which involves fiction by largely Asian writers from nations once colonised by the West. This emphasis on reading is requisite to a writing major because reading good literature allows us to learn different writing strategies employed by experienced writers that help their narratives resonate with their readers. More importantly, it teaches us the importance of having a personal “voice” so that our written work can be recognisable.
As my specialist knowledge in writing grows with each unit I take, so does my confidence as a writer; with the realisation of the importance of writing effectively, I am now more critical of my own compositions to ensure that they always address their intended purposes and achieve results. My pursuit of a degree in writing has undoubtedly also broadened my career scope: I am now more aware that expertise can be applied to a range of careers, from journalism, copy-editing, advertisement and marketing, to ghost-writing, scriptwriting, translating, and many others. The career opportunities for a writer who understands the art of effective writing are nowadays endless due to the demands a goal-oriented marketplace. Business Insider Malaysia, for example, reported that writing-related professions are some of the highest earners last year, with a median salary apparently starting from RM 50,000 annually.
Chua Hui Chei is in her second year of pursuing a degree in Writing at our School of Arts and Social Sciences.