Fast Company

The Value of Writing

What do you think is the most overlooked skill in business?

According to entrepreneur Sidney Harman, it's writing. I have to agree. It's not merely about communication. More importantly, it's about thinking in a more disciplined way. When you put words on a sheet of paper, or a computer screen for that matter, you immediately impose your own analysis on what you've written. It's concrete. It matters.

As Harman puts it in his new book, Mind Your Own Business, "It helps clarify one's thinking. It improves all other means of communication by enhancing vocabulary and promoting the ability to formulate thoughts in coherent and creative ways. It is a first cousin to public speaking because it helps frame the material in a fashion that makes it explicable and communicable. That is essential in public speaking."

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3 Comments

  • Roger King

    Well, no, Kate, you can't write. Nor can you spell and your use of the comma and the possessive wouldn't get you a passing grade in freshman English. And your example of not having developed your public speaking skills really isn't the point. And you really shouldn't blame people for not reading something you regard as well-written. A better question: Is your composition addressing a question that needs an answer NOW?

  • Kate Abuhelewa

    I can write reasonably well and, on the flipside what I have found is because it's easy to write I haven't really developed my public speaking or presentations skills as much as I might have done.
    The thing is with writing something, say for example for a possible audience of 20 people, even if they all need to know about it, a significant portion may not even read it, and, even if well written, 1 or 2 people may still not understnadn it. At least when you present something, 19 people's focus and concentration may carry along the one who didn't understand.

  • Brendon J. Wilson

    I'd have to agree. One of the most shocking things I learned in my recent MBA: most people can't write. And I don't mean "write", as in "create flowing, graceful prose", I mean "form coherent sentences that form logical arguments". And I'm an engineer. You know, the group stereotyped as being poor spellers, and even poorer communicators.

    More disturbing is the apparent inability of most people to use the very tools that are supposed to make writing easier. Wasn't I supposed to be part of the "computer generation"? If so, how is it that most users are unable to recognize that Word is trying to tell them something when it underlines a word or phrase in red? How much global productivity is lost because people seem to prefer to create their own heading styles manually, rather than using the built-in heading styles?

    Argggghh!