If your team writes, how often do you find yourself
- receiving written materials at the last minute or late?
- nagging contributors for revisions of materials that are poorly written and unclear?
- giving up and rewriting the pieces yourself?
If you're dealing with these issues frequently or all the time, you may be tempted to drive your team to courses that help them with grammar and punctuation skills in the hope that your job will get easier.
But here's something many frustrated team leaders might not realize: good writing isn't about grammar. It's about critical thinking.
That fact might be a revelation to your team members, too. When scientists, engineers, data analysts, and other technical professionals struggle to complete writing projects, they may perceive writing as something they're not "good" at because they can't remember (and don't really care about) grammar rules. However, the process of writing is actually a process of applying critical thinking skills, and that is something your team members are good at.
People who work in math, science, and technology fields are highly intelligent critical thinkers. In their everyday jobs, they solve problems, form hypotheses, explore and discover support for theories, and draw educated conclusions. In all of their training and in their daily jobs, critical thinking is a must.
When your team members see writing as a familiar process, it will be easier for them. As content development expert Jan Archer of Demand Media explains, critical thinking skills are the same essential skills used in writing: questioning, researching, analyzing, and assessing.
The critical thinking process appears in writing in the following ways:
- When beginning a writing assignment, writers must question why it needs to be written, what the purpose of the piece is, and how to best convey the message.
- Next, writers research the topic, deciding what essential information the piece will convey and what the desired outcome will be.
- After analysis, writers determine what details to include and develop a plan for delivering that information.
- Once they've completed a draft, writers must revise and submit it to other reviewers to assess effectiveness.
What's even more surprising is that research has found that complex writing may actually help critical thinkers further improve their critical thinking skills. While many daily tasks require minimal processing (automatic or fast thinking), complex writing projects require more effort. The study "Learning to Improve: Using Writing to Increase Critical Thinking Performance in General Education Biology" reveals that although writing doesn't teach critical thinking by itself, the act of writing a complex document can actually hone those critical thinking skills.
People working in technical and scientific professions clearly have great critical thinking skills. However, getting hung up on the grammar and punctuation side of writing isn't necessary. Instead, these professionals need strategies they can use to apply their critical thinking skills to improve their writing.