One time I man I know casually told me that his teenage daughter didn’t like writing. She didn’t see the need and didn’t want to become better. He asked me what would I say about the importance of being able to write.
Many already know that punctuation saves lives, as illustrated in the example: “Let’s eat Grandma” vs. “Let’s eat, Grandma.” But what would I tell a young person about why learning to write is important? These are my thoughts:
Writing is important for safety and protection. Writing is how rules are established.
I remember one time I was with a 7-year-old niece at a skating rink. Looking to the list of rules on the wall, she said, “There are a lot of no’s.” Indeed, every rule on the sign began with the word “No.” And it’s true: someone’s got to be able to write “No running.”
Writing is how we tell people what behavior we will accept. “No return after the sale.” “No food or drink in the store.” “No parking without a permit.”
“No” is one of the most important words in language – and one of the most freeing. “No” creates boundaries, where we can say, “I have a set of core values – my no means I won’t go past them.”
But sometimes the no is not based on a set of hard and fast rules, but more on what is going to work out best for the situation at hand.
At some point, you will be the one who has to say no, and you will want to do so with more caring than is demonstrated by the skating-rink list of rules. Perhaps you will have to say no to someone who wants a job that you have the power to offer or withhold – or who is seeking support for a cause, and you want to be respectful of the disappointment your no will bring. What comes after “It is with deep regret that I must…”?
While writing may be how you say no, it is also how you can seek a yes for yourself. Writing is how you can make a request. You may be seeking a job one day and want to make the case for why you should be hired. Beyond that, in almost any kind of work there is, you will be called on to seek a yes from someone else – a supervisor, client, vendor, volunteer, member, donor…
When something matters to you, you will want this thing to matter to others too. So you will want to write a letter asking for support. What words will get you the yes you want to receive?
Not coincidentally and perhaps most importantly, writing is also how you can say yes. “Yes, I accept your offer.” “Yes, I look forward to attending.” “Yes, I will support your cause.” How will you say, without hesitation or equivocation, “I’m in. I’m on board. You can count on me.”
So there you have it – the three main things I know about why writing is important: It’s how you can say no. It’s how you can make a request. And it’s how you can say yes.
Minnie Lamberth is a marketing copywriter and author of Story Shaping, a creative encouragement platform.