Do we still need to teach writing?

There are many people, educators and otherwise, who suspect that the onset of the current technological age is the beginning of the end of the need for traditional writing and hence they question the value of teaching the skills associated with writing.

‘Why bother?’ runs their argument. ‘So many of the skills we took for granted—paragraphs, topic sentences, vocabulary choice, standardised spelling, punctuation, even grammar—are now passé. When students can write a letter (email) with no salutation, little to no punctuation, total disdain for grammar and spelling, and with a preponderance of abbreviations and initialisms, and still be perfectly understood by the recipient, why would we try?’

pencilsaBut, we contend, what is described above is not writing in the true sense; rather, it is a simple, limited form of communication between peers, within an immediate and shared context. ‘Real’ writing is much, much more. It is the window to clear, concise communication, across time and space, to our personality, our intellect, our knowledge, our understandings. It makes our thoughts concrete. And it is often the basis on which we are still judged by different people for different reasons.

Good writing can create a permanent bond between writer and reader. Good writers strive to make that bond strong by using skills and strategies to communicate clearly, dispel uncertainty and avoid confusion.

Good writing tells stories, gives instruction, provides reports, asks questions, and clarifies intent and purpose. It stimulates and promotes thinking skills — both for the writer and the reader. It reaches depths of understanding and refinement impossible to attain in a shorthand email or SMS.

It goes almost without saying, but we’ll say it anyway. Effective, learned and practised writing skills and strategies are vital for higher education; they enable analysis, logical thinking as a life skill; and, of course, they are often a prerequisite for employment.

Students still need those skills and, we’re happy to say, business and the wider community still value them. As teachers, we need to equip our students with the knowledge and strategies to be able to write effectively, and to realise there is more to writing than simplistic abbreviated terms.



Teaching Writing Skills is an excellent photocopiable series providing opportunities for pupils to read, analyse, plan and write a range of text types using writing worksheets. On sale now for only £14.95. Learn more about this product here.


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