I have an acquaintance who will text me once in a while, and her texts always leave me in confusion. She writes like she is picking up in the middle of a conversation we never had. It’s lengthy; it references things that I don’t understand; and when I reach the end of the message, I’m not sure what she was contacting me about in the first place. It’s only a text message, but it’s written very poorly.
Now, some people communicate best when they use their voice. They prefer giving presentations to writing essays. They will answer a text or email with a phone call. They need to meet face to face with whomever they are trying to contact, otherwise everyone will be confused in the end and nothing will get done.
And there’s nothing wrong with this! Everyone needs to have skills in verbal communication, to be able to hold a conversation with someone or present an idea to a group and clearly share your thoughts on the topic at hand. It’s a life skill!
Do you know what else is a life skill?
Communicating through writing.
Yes, it is essential. The fact is that face to face, verbal communication won’t always be an option. In the 21st century, no matter where you go in life—whether professionally or socially—you need to be able to express yourself in writing in order to communicate with other people.
That’s why it’s important to learn to write well. The goal of writing is to communicate, and if you write well, you will communicate well. Many homeschool families get caught up in the rules of English grammar and how to diagram sentences and using SAT vocabulary words. All of those things can be incredibly frustrating! I repeat, English grammar is the worst! But the good news is, rules and diagrams and the SAT are NOT what learning to write is about! Neither is it about meeting minimum page requirements or regurgitating the opinions of teachers.
Writing is about expressing your ideas clearly! About making yourself understood and bridging the gap between you and someone else.
Did you see what I just did? Alert the Grammar Police, Athena just used a fragment sentence in a writing blog! “Booooooooooooo!”
I did use a fragment sentence, but I care more about getting my point across than being a stickler for Da Rules.
Now, I’m not calling for anarchy. The rules are in place to aid in communicating. If I chucked the rules out the window and wrote “til that tl;dr mean 2long;didnaered,” most people would have no idea what I meant at all. Communication would be null. The rules and requirements of spelling and structure help people understand each other. The problem is that many homeschool families think writing is ONLY about the rules, when it’s not.
Writing is about expressing and being understood.
It’s okay to struggle with writing if you’re more of a verbal person, just like it’s okay for a good writer to struggle with an in-person conversation. Know that just because you struggle doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. At the same time, just because something is hard doesn’t mean that it’s not important.
So as you approach learning or teaching to write—whether you are a homeschool parent or a homeschool student—keep a few things in mind.
Write to be understood, not impressive.
Big words, long essays, fancy grammar—these aren’t the goal. Expressing your ideas in a way that other people can connect with—THAT is the goal. It doesn’t have to be magnificent, just effective.
“I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request” means the same thing as just plain “No.”
You’re the writer, but think of the reader.
If you struggle with writing and find yourself just trying to finish the assignment so you can be done, step back for a moment. Change your perspective. Don’t think, “What can I write?” Think, “What will another person need to read in order to understand what I mean?” If the goal of writing is to communicate, then what you put on the paper is only half of the story. The reader also needs to understand what you write in order for communication to happen.
This is a reason why grammar rules and providing adequate explanations of your topic are important. They help the reader understand, even if they feel like a pain to the writer.
“I love my parents, Clark Kent and Audrey Hepburn” could confuse the reader. They may think that Clark and Audrey are your parents, when what you really mean is, “I love 1) my parents, 2) Clark Kent, and 3) Audrey Hepburn.”
You don’t have to be the best writer to be a good one.
It’s okay to struggle with writing, and it’s okay if others write better than you! Just keep writing and developing that skill so that you can communicate and connect with others. Again, you don’t have to be the best to be effective.
By Athena Lester
Head of Curriculum and Scoring Services