Learning to Write

By Juha Haataja

Writing is hard. Anybody can write badly, and most people do. But to write well takes skill and practice. Here I will show you how you can develop the skills and habits that can allow you to develop into a good writer.

Learning to write is similar to learning to play the piano. You have to practice daily to improve your skills. Studying good examples also helps.

William Zinsser is a professional writer and teacher of writing. Once he was on a radio program with a Dr. X, who was a surgeon and part-time writer. Dr. X said about writing: "Don't edit, don't rewrite, let it all hang out." Zinsser wrote later: "Perhaps I should take on doing surgery on the side?"

To be a writer requires commitment. It is not a part-time job. If you are serious about writing, your texts will follow you everywhere.

Writing is one of the hardest things people do. So if you want to make some kind of lasting impression, you have to learn the craft. You can't teach writing - but you can learn, at least from good examples.

But you shouldn't just read the grammar books. There are too many unclear texts with excellent grammar. Unclear writing can cause people to die. An example: before the nuclear accident at the Three Mile Island site a couple of engineers had written a warning report. However, the report was so badly written that nobody took action.

Today that report is used as a case study of failed communication. The engineers got more readers than they thought, but not the way they would have liked.

I have written a list of good examples: Recommended Non-fiction Books. I hope these will help you on your journey, wherever you are going.