I’ve found that one of the most interesting predictors of success is being a good writer—even if the job itself doesn’t require much writing. For this reason, I emphasize hiring good writers and encourage team members to prioritize writing skills. Almost every time I’ve broken the “hire good writers” rule, I’ve regretted it.
For the past 25 years, I’ve asked for a writing sample from job candidates. I don’t request they create something new (because I think it’s important that job candidates not have to complete anything resembling “free work”). Any piece of writing is useful, as long as you wrote it entirely yourself.
Why care so much about this?
Because every company benefits from good writing—both internally and externally.
Here are three reasons why being a good writer is important, and why writing is a skill worth focusing on, no matter your job description:
1. Good writing correlates with crisp thinking. Writing provides excellent insight into the way someone’s mind works. Good writers have well-structured thoughts and an orderly outlook. Who doesn’t want great thinkers on their team?
2. Clear, persuasive communication is the underpinning of a successful professional. Other skills matter a great deal, of course, but you’ll go further if you can express yourself well in writing. Whether you’re communicating with partners, customers, or coworkers, the way you write influences how people view both you and your company. Clear communication builds confidence and creates more productive relationships.
3. If you’re a good writer, there will always be work for you to do. And if you’re not a good writer, there will sometimes be more work for your boss to do, because if they care about how you or the company is coming across, they’ll have to fix your written work.
Here are seven tips for becoming a better writer:
1. Read a lot, ideally from as early an age as possible. In my experience, the best way to become a great writer is to read. A lot. Reading expands your vocabulary, solidifies your grammar, enables you to draw inspiration from great writers, and more. So read before bed. Read on your commute if you take public transportation. Read whenever you have time, all the time.
2. Review everything you write. I’m not perfect, but I review everything, including emails. This helps ensure my writing is free of mistakes. Take the extra few seconds to give your writing one more read. It’s worth it!
3. Use as few words as possible to communicate your meaning. Less is almost always more. Nobody wants to read a 200-word message that could have easily been 50.
4. If there’s a simpler word, use it. Good communication is about getting your point across in the easiest way possible for the reader to digest it. Quite simply, simple words work best. There’s no need to say you “disseminated” information when you sent it.
5. Make sure your points are parallel. Now we’re getting into the weeds a bit, but I certainly notice this one. Failing to use a parallel structure can degrade otherwise good writing. For example, if five of the six qualifications on your resume begin with verbs but one doesn’t, that single outlier will feel “off” and make you look less qualified.
6. Use anecdotes and examples wherever you can. A story is worth 1,000 words. Adding one whenever possible helps you connect with the reader so they remember your message.
7. When it matters, have someone edit your work. We all miss mistakes in our own writing. At NakedPoppy, the clean beauty startup I co-founded, we have our resident grammarian comb through every single social media and blog post before it goes live.
Writing is an outlet for your intelligence to shine through. That’s why, regardless of your field, improving as a writer will help you succeed.
It’s never too late to learn what makes great writing. If your writing chops need work, here’s my advice: pick up a copy of The Elements of Style or Revising Prose and take a workshop or an online class.
But remember that nothing is more important than reading often. When you read great books and articles, you’re learning at the feet of the masters.