Over the weekend, I went to dinner with a small group of friends. When the bill came, one of my friends picked up the tab, and we all Venmoed him. What was interesting was the remark he made as he signed the bill: "It feels weird holding a pen." It looked like he was struggling to figure out his signature.
I can't blame him. Thanks to technology, writing is becoming less common. When was the last time you took pen to paper? The written word has also become less prevalent when it comes to the content we consume. Instead of reading a book or an article, we listen to an audiobook or a podcast or watch a YouTube video.
There's nothing wrong with any of these things. But, like everything else in life, you should consume them in moderation -- writing is a skill you need if you want to be successful in life.
Good grammar is good business.
Way back in 2012, Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, wrote in a blog post for Harvard Business Review that he wouldn't hire anyone who used poor grammar. In fact, he required all applicants to take a grammar test prior to moving forward.
That may sound a bit much. But, according to Wiens, he's "found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing -- like stocking shelves or labeling parts." What's more, he believes that grammar skills indicate several other valuable traits, including learning ability, professional credibility and attention to detail.
A year later, in 2013, Grammarly reviewed 100 LinkedIn profiles of native English speakers in the consumer packaged goods industry and found that:
Professionals with fewer grammar mistakes in their profiles earned higher positions.
Fewer grammar errors correlated with increased promotions.
Fewer grammar errors were associated with frequent job changes, or career mobility.
Grammarly CEO Brad Hoover noted that while this was a small sample size, "this data set clearly supports the hypothesis that good grammar is a predictor of professional success." That still makes sense all these years later.
Honestly ask yourself whether you'd hire someone with a poorly written or sloppy résumé. Will this person be able to deliver on your business plan? How effectively will you be able to communicate your goals and expectations? How likely is it that this person will be able to successfully network with others and build your brand?
In short, if you want to succeed -- as a boss or as an employee -- good grammar is essential.
Writing is the foundation of all leadership communication.
"Great leaders can both unleash and harness the power of the written word, and understand how to use it well in context," wrote Kevin Daum in a previous Inc.com article. If you've ever been in a leadership role, this should ring true. After all, as a leader, you must be able to manage, coordinate, motivate and support your team. Strong communication skills, both written and verbal, allow you to accomplish that. If you sent an employee poorly written instructions, how probable is it that you'll both be disappointed in the outcome -- and each other?
Additionally, sending thank-you notes to your team members and clients is a simple and effective way to build and strengthen relationships. Thank-you notes can be used to build personal connections and loyalty. They also have the power to make others feel recognized and valued; this, in turn, will make them more productive.
There's another big benefit of handwritten notes: It reduces the time you and your teammates spend communicating through email, Slack, text or social media. I'm not hating on these forms of communication -- they certainly have the ability to improve collaboration with others. At the same time, smartphone notifications and online distractions -- from BuzzFeed quizzes to YouTube cat videos -- are the biggest distractions in the workplace. I encourage our employees at Calendar to turn off notifications during certain times of the day and draft their to-do list, map out their thoughts or spend the time writing.
Writing is good for your mind and body.
Writing, specifically by hand, has numerous benefits for your health and well-being.
For starters, it can improve your memory. "When we write by hand, we have to coordinate verbal and fine movement systems," Dr. Helen Macpherson of the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) at Deakin University told The Huffington Post Australia. "And when we learn new information, for example at school or in a university lecture, we don't write verbatim, which means we have to create our own summaries and concepts."
Researchers have also found that handwriting, in particular the forming of letters, is the key to not only improving your memory, but also forming new ideas and learning. In fact, if you want to slow down mental aging, writing is your best bet because it forces you to use more of your motor skills.
Finally, writing by hand has a calming effect. "Writing a calming sentence is a form of graphotherapy," says Dr. Marc Seifer, a graphologist and handwriting expert. "Jotting down a sentence like, 'I will be more peaceful' at least 20 times per day can actually have an impact, especially on those with attention deficit disorder."
"This actually calms the person down and retrains the brain," Seifer says. As a result, this can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression. These issues, if they aren't addressed, can severely affect not only your work performance, but your physical health as well.
You can improve your writing skills.
The most obvious place to start is to begin writing frequently. After all, practice makes perfect. However, don't force yourself to write daily. Instead, make this a weekly event -- allow yourself to write whatever's on your mind. Eventually, you can work your way up to writing more often throughout the week. The goal is to just write and make it a habit. As you begin to process your thoughts more fully via writing, you'll be more likely to take on more writing willingly.
When it comes to writing in the workplace, always get to the point. Be clear, concise and direct. Try to use an organized story structure to get your ideas across. Use active, muscular words so there's no debating what you mean. Know your audience members, and address them with the tone that will best get your message across (and heard). Avoid strange fonts, boldface or italics -- these distract from your real intent.
Finally, leave enough time for revisions, and take advantage of the resources at your disposal. I not only use Grammarly to help me avoid common grammatical and spelling errors, but I always have someone else on my team proofread my work before sharing it with others.
Writing isn't an antiquated skill best left in your school days. Written communication is -- and will remain -- essential. After all, we're human beings, no matter how much technology we have, and our "rudimentary" skills allow us to work through things in the best, most humanly way possible.