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Monday Mom challenge: Boost your writing skills

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Communicating in print

Technology rocks! Could you imagine your life without email? Without texting? Without Twitter and social networking sites? They have all brought so much to our lives: the ability to share and communicate in discrete, timely ways about both the important and the not so important. But with all that fast communication, something seems to be getting lost, and that is our ability to write clearly and concisely in more than 140 characters.

Woman writing a note

For moms, this is definitely something we need to model for and encourage in our kids. The up and coming generations are facing more and more challenges in how they communicate: while there are more and more ways, the consequences of how and when they communicate are different, and kids needs to understand that when it comes to writing, there is a time and place for different kinds of writing - but being clear in all forms of writing is important. We need to show them the way.

The importance of written communication

Writing is a critical skill. We all need to understand the difference between casual, acronym-filled notes to the BFF or DH and the carefully constructed letter to the school department about our kids' educational plan. We need to know how to communicate with words clearly and carefully, saying just what we mean, and not what we don't. There are implications if we don't!

Think, for example, of a piece of poorly written text you've seen recently - and you are sure to have! Rather than being able to read the text, understand it and move on to the next thing, you had to spend some time thinking about what it meant, trying to discern from the misplaced comma or the run-on sentence what was really the point. Poor writing wastes time! And if you interpret the writing not as it was intended, what are the consequences? Do you go to the wrong place at the wrong time to pick up your child from soccer practice? Plug the cable into the wrong place and blow the circuit? Something worse?

While you can't necessarily do anything about the poor writing skills of others, you can boost your own writing skills and encourage the same in your family. It's a worthwhile effort.

Practice, practice, practice

The ability to write well is not something one learns how to do once, and then is set for life. Learning to write and write well is an on-going process. The best and most well-regarded writers of our day work at writing. They practice it every day, reworking and rearranging and editing words until it conveys just what they mean. Writing is a craft!

We don't all have significant parts of our days set aside to just write. As a mom with little time, how can you boost your writing skills?

  • Write: Set aside 10 minutes a day to write about something...anything. It could be in a journal or on a blog, just as long as you do it. You could easily start by deciding to spend that time recording something about your family life, or something silly your son or daughter did.
  • Edit: Now spend another 10 minutes editing what you just wrote. Read it out loud. Does it make sense when spoken as written? What could you rearrange, break up or punctuate to make sure it reads exactly as you intend it?
  • Read: Spend another chunk of time reading. There are many terrific authors out there whose words can help you understand what it means to write well. Ask a local librarian for pointers to authors in genres you particularly enjoy for the examples.
  • Repeat: Write, edit and read -- consciously -- every day. Over time you will be able to see how your writing has improved in every medium from tweet to email to PTA meeting notes to tales about your family.

Boosting your writing skills and your ability to communicate clearly and eloquently is something you can do with just a bit of practice each day. Make writing - a VIS (Very Important Skill) - a priority in your and your family's life.

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