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Want to give your children a leg-up in getting a job when they graduate? Make sure they can write clearly and effectively.

A common complaint hiring managers make is it is hard to find young workers who write well. Someone who can produce a block of clear and understandable, within word count, is a prize even in today’s job market. Here is what to do:

Get your children writing. No one starts out writing well. It is a skill acquired through practice. You have to produce a lot of bad writing before you produce good writing. Look for ways to get them to write and write regularly.

When they get home from school have them write 100 words on the most interesting thing that happened to them that day. Does a youth organization your child belongs to have a newsletter? Get your children to contribute to it. If they have a hobby or interest, have them start a blog about it and post entries at least every other day. Or get them to write short stories.

None of this has to be very good – at first. The object is to get them in the habit of writing. It is like learning a sport or a musical instrument. You are weak until you start practicing. Let them use a computer word processor. It makes writing easier and most word processors have spelling and grammar tools.

Start with Spelling

Work on improving their writing. Once they are writing regularly, get them to improve their writing. Start with spelling (word processors have spell checkers, so this is a natural starting point.) Move on to correct punctuation next. Start simply (periods and commas), then get more daring (maybe even teach them about possessive plurals).

Get basic books on writing. The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White is short, straightforward, inexpensive, and easily available. It is easy to read and use, even for tweens and teens. That is unsurprising; E. B. White was also author of Charlotte’s Web.

Get them editing. Once they are comfortable writing, and have mastered grammar and spelling have them exercise those skills regularly. Spelling errors, awkward constructions, and unclear language are easier to spot in other people’s writing than in your own. (After all, you know what you intend to say.)

Do your children follow a hobby, sport, or interest? Have them take a daily post from someone else’s blog about it, and edit the post to remove grammar and spelling errors, and improve clarity. (Blog postings are target-rich environments for correction.) Or, when they are ready, have them edit a youth newsletter at church or youth organization. They will learn a lot. Just like the best way to learn something is to teach it, the best way to learn good writing is to edit.

Your children may not become the next C.S.Lewis or Victor David Hansen. They do not have to. The ability to communicate clearly helps regardless of their career.

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By Mark N. Lardas. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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