Effective writing skills are important. From time to time, I make spelling mistakes. Grammar mistakes, too. Especially when I’m in a rush to post an entry or send an email, I don’t spend nearly enough time reviewing and revising my words.
But there are times when I think such effort is crucial if you want to be taken seriously. If for no other reason than to make your point clearly, taking the time to consider, review and edit your writing will yield many benefits.
This week I was exposed to two examples of why poor writing weakens your argument and causes others to not take you seriously.
The first example came from work. Someone submitted an email from a personal email address to an internal company address that perhaps they thought would not be monitored. The letter was so unclear and unfocussed that it was brought to the attention of my division’s VP, who took the time to respond and ask for clarification.
Here’s the text of the email. “Huddles” are a type of daily team-building training session, about 10 minutes in length, that our employees conduct.
Huddle notes. What are we, high school 15 year olds. But then again for what [our] employees are paid has a lot to do with the quality of people you attract. They have been re-hashed, re-worked and repeated. Micro-Managing is old and tiresome. I would no more give someone who gets a livable wage the next idea for a huddle through a note or comment I may or may not make.
What in the world is this person trying to communicate? The VP’s eloquent response conveyed a sincere desire to understand what, exactly, the person was concerned about. Being provided with the opportunity to share suggestions? Having a document on which he or she could take notes about the training? The quality of employees we hire? The amount we pay them?
Hopefully, the employee will respond to the VP’s email with more information. My suspicion is that the person didn’t expect to ever receive a response and, when asked to articulate him/herself more clearly, will scurry into the shadows of anonymity.
What a shame, though. There is obviously something bothering that employee, but his/her inability to clearly articulate it will hamper our efforts to address the concern.
The second example came from a friend who shared his frustration at Kenneth Starr’s role in persuading the California Supreme Court to overturn the 18,000 same-sex marriages that have been performed in the state. In an online comment board, the friend wrote the following:
Which constitutional rights should you lose simply because you are heterosexual? As a honest taxing paying citizen, what right am I entitled to revoke yours. Are you doing this for money? You can’t take it with you. Fame? same sex marriage will happen soon or later…like it or not… very soon, in history, you will be remembered as one of most hated person. why you are doing this? you will regret so much in your death bed knowing how many hearts you have broken & how many people wish you, your family and anyone relate to you go to hell (i am atheist and don’t believe in hell). you are good at what you do as an attorney(prostitute)-for-hire & put your skills to good use. so many things come & go in life…one thing has & always will remain the same…how love make people feel. anyone with heart knows this. do you have a heart? I know my love as much as you know your love. Don’t judge your daughter/son & granddaughter/son’s love. There are less days you’ll live compare to the days you lived. Do yourself a good deed while you are a human being. Don’t wait till you return to earth as a handful of fertilizer…than you’d would be no different from the worst criminal you’d know.
His passion is very clear but I think the power of that passion is lost when the message delivered is so unclearly articulated. It isn’t the spelling or grammar errors – those are understandable. It is just the way that so many disjointed ideas are crammed together in a single paragraph, running into each other in a stream-of-consciousness way.
The sad truth is, it isn’t a statement that’s going to persuade anyone to change their views about same-sex marriage. It isn’t going to cause an experienced lawyer (Starr) to sit back and reconsider his position. If anything, it makes the argument in favor of same-sex marriage look weaker because it makes us look like a bunch of people who can’t even express ourselves clearly.
It is important for us to be passionate and to express those passions. But I think the passion is most effectively channeled when we can express it in a way that moves others to understand and hopefully support our views.