If you have mastered the principles and technique of passing exams and writing top essays it is time to refine the process through practice and experience until you can always rely on performing to the very best of your ability. The basic principles of writing exams and essays will always be applicable to the more complex writing tasks that you will inevitably face in the world of work. Working life for most people involves some written material – reports, letters, presentations – and the better you are able to communicate in writing, the more competent you will be.
Read and listen
Along with practice, however, reading material produced by able communicators also helps to develop your appreciation of good writing technique and correct spelling and punctuation. What you learn from reading depends on your awareness and critical focus.
Most professional writers, be they TV or radio broadcasters or journalists, or authors of fact or fiction books, have mastered these principles so their work is on display for you as a model or standard of good communication. Regrettably, however, literary standards have slipped sharply in recent years in the press, though book publishers, particularly some British and American imprints, are still maintaining careful, and sometimes impeccable, standards. Though some journalists may survive in this language jungle despite their sins of ignorance, by and large communication skills – oral and written – will determine your career success.
In addition the tradesman, shop assistant or managing director all depend on their ability to get their point over to other people and reinforce that view by valid argument and imparting understanding. So the skills you develop now will underpin almost everything you do in the future, whatever your occupation.
In reading and appreciating, even criticizing, the work of others, you will discover that there are essentially two different types of people – information takers and opinion makers. The first group are the consumers of mass media products who mainly absorb but seldom give out in any public sense. The opinion makers guide and develop, or even confuse or regress, popular thought – sometimes to serve vested interests.
Good communicators, if they demonstrate an ability to persuade as they inform, will go far in their careers and prove to be those who change society for good or ill. Such is the potential of powerful communication. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword.
Lifting your own game relies, first, on becoming an ardent self-critic. That does not mean cultivating a negative perception of your own abilities as a basis for self-denigration and loss of confidence. Rather it means you have to recognize your strengths and weaknesses and work at improving those areas where you are not performing as well as you could.
Self-criticism is a problem in some ways. An assessment of your own work may not be made on the same basis as that of another reader. Your perceptions, and self-criticism, may be based on wholly different premises because you are the communicator and the reader is the recipient of what you have to say. You know what you mean, but you have to convey that meaning, clearly, to the other person. So being the communicator or the one to whom the communication is being directed bring quite different perceptions to the meeting of minds.