Drawing Connections Between Reading & Writing for Adults

Instructor: Virginia Wilkerson

Virginia has a Master's degree in Curriculum and Development and a Ph.D. in English

Reading and Writing are highly integrated skills that involve the manipulation of words and the ideas they express in groups and paragraphs. The texts we read give us models for effective writing, and the writing we do helps us understand how to effectively reach the reader.

Who Needs to Read?

Well, actually, almost everyone does! If you belong to a literate society in which ideas are expressed using written language, then reading becomes crucial to your well-being and success. Most of us learn to read in elementary school, although many students cannot read well enough as adults to do what they want and need to do in our modern, technological world. As you know, there was a time, not so long ago, that a person could earn a living in a hands-on type of job without being a reader. This is not the case today. Those who work in fields that make use of physical labor are often called on to read memos, instructions, and safety information. And most careers require a complex understanding of written communication.

What about Writing?

Reading and writing are two sides of the same coin. When you learn to read, you are also becoming familiar with the way letters and words fit together to create meaning. When you learn a language as a child, you gradually learn how to put together longer chains of words and phrases to make sentences, and then you learn to write these sentences on paper.

Learning to Read
learning to read

The true purpose of writing, of course, is not to please a teacher or get good grades in school. Writing is designed for communication. If you think about it, no matter how simple or complex, writing is meant to make clear the writer's meaning to someone who will later read and interpret that meaning. The person who reads what you have written may be far distant from you in time and place, but they can still know your thoughts, and even your feelings. Today, we can still read what the ancient philosophers wrote and learn from their ideas. We can still read or perform in a play by William Shakespeare, only because his written scripts have been preserved and passed down to us. In some ways, writing is a way to let yourself and your ideas live on into the future.

The Power of Words
Writing

Why Are there So Many Rules?

Of course, a Shakespearean play is very different from a note you write to your spouse or child to let them know they need to take out the trash! Yet, these two pieces of writing have something in common. Your note will never be performed, or probably even preserved, yet it is important that your reader understand it. That is why there are rules about such aspects of writing as syntax (word order), verb forms, punctuation, and so on. When all English speakers agree on these rules, our communication over time and distance becomes possible.

Here is a humorous example of the power of punctuation:

Read this sentence containing no punctuation marks and think about the intended meaning.

Woman without her man is nothing

Regardless of your gender, you are probably a bit taken aback by what the writer may be saying. But there are two ways to add punctuation that create two entirely different meanings.

1) Woman, without her man, is nothing.

OR

2) Woman: without her, man is nothing.

Just from this small example, you see the usefulness of the many grammar and usage rules that cause so much confusion when learning to write.

Connections

So, what is the point here? Simply this: reading and writing are intimately connected. If you are having trouble with a writing task, find something to read that is in a similar format - perhaps several such examples - and learn from the experts. When you read, you learn how words are used not only to create meaning, but to express a mood or tone, to entertain, or to convince someone of your opinion.

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