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by SixFigureStart | February 18, 2009


How to stand out in today's ultra-crowded mass of job seekers? Try polishing up your writing skills. Most people can communicate adequately, but far fewer can write well, and everyone can improve. A couple of interesting -- but not flashy -- well-placed words and a carefully-constructed sentence can make more of an impact than you think. In one recent survey, Sarah Lawrence College graduates related how an intense focus on good writing at the college level helped them tremendously in jobs as varied as real estate broker, attorney, scientist, marketer, financial analyst, and non-profit worker.

Whether you're laid-off and looking, or would like to advance to the next level where you are, there are several things you can do. Read as much as you can -- business and trade publications will certainly help, but don't be afraid to pick up a classic American novel. (For these purposes, James Patterson doesn't count.) Take your time to think about the language and flow, and why and how certain phrases are used. If there are words you're not familiar with, by all means look them up. Next, search the local bookstore for college test prep workbooks and writers' guides (The Associated Press Stylebook, for example) in the reference section. (And yes, there are books which manage to entertain while discussing proper punctuation.) Don't count on spell- and grammar-check software to find all your mistakes; if you use a correctly-spelled similar-sounding word (say, "their" instead of "they're"), it won't correct you. Lastly, and especially if you have professional aspirations, join a writers' group or invest in a class in which you can get clear and immediate feedback from others.

A report by the National Commission on Writing stated that companies spend up to $3.1 billion per year on training efforts to improve the writing skills of their workers. Save them the trouble by showing how effectively you can turn a phrase, and you'll be remembered later on, when it counts.

--Posted by Todd Obolsky, Vault News & Commentary