Coronavirus Update: Our team is here to help our clients and readers navigate these difficult times. Visit our Resources page now »

Skip to Main Content
History

The skill of writing has existed for thousands of years. Papyrus fragments with writing by ancient Egyptians date from about 3000 B.C. and archaeological findings show that the Chinese had developed books by about 1300 B.C. A number of technical obstacles had to be overcome before printing and the profession of writing evolved. Books of the Middle Ages were copied by hand on parchment. The ornate style that marked these books helped ensure their rarity. Also, few people were able to read.

The development of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the middle of the 15th century and the liberalism of the Protestant Reformation, which encouraged a wide range of publications, greater literacy, and the creation of a number of works of literary merit, prompted the development of the publishing industry. The first authors worked directly with printers.

The modern publishing age began in the 18th century. Printing became mechanized, and the novel, magazines, and newspapers developed. The first newspaper in the American colonies appeared in the early 18th century, but it was Benjamin Franklin who, as editor and writer, made the Pennsylvania Gazette one of the most influential in setting a high standard for his fellow American journalists. Franklin also published the first magazine in the colonies, The American Magazine, in 1741.

Advances in the printing trades, photoengraving, retailing, and the availability of capital produced a boom in newspapers and magazines in the 19th century. Further mechanization in the printing field, such as the use of the Linotype machine, high-speed rotary presses, and special color reproduction processes, set the stage for still further growth in the book, newspaper, and magazine industry.

In addition to the print media, the broadcasting industry has contributed to the development of the professional writer. Film, radio, and television are sources of entertainment, information, and education that provide employment for thousands of writers.

Today, the growth of the Internet and social media have created an increasing number of opportunities for writers to work as bloggers, online journalists, social media professionals, and writers for online videos. The increasing popularity of electronic books is good news for writers, who now have many additional outlets to reach potential readers outside of the mainstream publishing industry (although some writers believe that publishing companies are taking too large of a cut of profits from e-book sales).  

Related Professions