I’ve climbed the corporate ladder and I’ve supported my family for years as a professional writer. So I’m going to tell you—with total certainty—that however you’re teaching your kid to write, it’s the wrong way.
If you want your kid to be a great writer, as in the Nobel Prize in literature, you don’t teach that. People learn storytelling by having a passion for doing it and they do it, all the time, on their own. Storytellers do not need to be told to write stories. In fact, it’s such a difficult, struggling life for most writers, that storytellers probably need to be discouraged, so they don’t starve.
If you want your kid to publish great research papers, teach your kid to find their passion. You can’t learn to write passionate inquiries about things you are not passionate about. It’s easy to learn how to write a great paper if you have something great to say. It’s very hard to find something great to say if you don’t know how to find your passion and stick with it. Lessons in those passion-finding skills are way more important than any writing curriculum you’ve dreamed up.
It’s true, however, that a lot of the workplace operates based on written communication. So here a good writing curriculum for preparing kids to be good communicators at work:
1. Write short. Very short. The business world moves very fast. People don’t read emails more than 300 words and even speechwriters are writing shorter and shorter every year.
2. Write the way your audience reads. Some bosses like lists, some like constant chatter via instant message, others prefer a weekly summary, but whatever the boss wants, you write it that way. And it’s actually more difficult to know what format a person wants to read, than it is to produce what someone wants to read. So learn to understand peoples’ written preferences.
3. Write via iPhone. The future of work communication will be mobile. It will be rough-draft-and-hit-send. Even now, when I watch Melissa work – curled up in a chair or running errands – she does almost all her work on her phone. And this work style is already common across a wide range of professions.
So in the future, writing be short, but also to the point, and no nuance, because it’s too hard to type nuance with your thumbs. So direct communcation will be highly valued.
Your kids can practice writing short and brilliant via Twitter.
4. Make videos with everything you write that’s long. The long-winded writing will be reserved for academia and there will be a video attached to it. So there’s no point teaching long-winded writing if you are not also teaching how to make videos. Check out Tyler Cowen’s Marginal Revolution University for a peek at the future of academia.
5. Make ideas visual, not only text. Most people don’t want to read only words anymore, and it’s probably okay. A study by Jeremy Short at University of Oklahoma found that students retain more information from graphic novels than traditional text books. And people are so much more likely to read things with visuals that there is a huge online business in making information graphics as advertising instead of the old-school text-based press releases. (Here’s an example that is geared toward homsechoolers to advertise college@home).
The more people get accustomed to presenting things visually, the better the tools get. At this point, visual.ly is much more important for kids to learn than it is for them to learn to write a five-paragraph essay.
Today’s children will need to be outstanding at presenting information in a concise and visual way. So, traditional writing classes are just another example of outdated curriculum created by people who are looking backward to protect a dead status quo.