The Relationship Between Writing & Literacy

Instructor: Joe Ricker

Joe has a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

With effort and understanding writing and literacy, much like the aspects of any good rom-com relationship, offer a partnership of mutual reward and development.

Stay Smooth

If you've ever tried to ride a bike with flat tires, then you'll understand how there's a fluid relationship between literacy and writing. Essentially, literacy, understanding what you've read, and writing are codependent skills in that they rely on the practice of each to improve the other. The more reading you do, the better your writing will become. The biggest difference between writing and literacy is that writing, by itself, does not necessarily improve literacy because it binds the writer to on single perspective. So, if you're trying to improve your writing without reading then you should go find that flat-tire bicycle and start pedaling uphill. The effort in that will be less intense.

Writing, like reading is a skill. And to improve any kind of skill you need practice. Think about speech for a moment. There was a time that you didn't know how to say even the most simple words. Parents spend many tender moments of their child's early years hoping for that first word to emerge from the toothless cavern of their young. Their celebration of their child's first word, especially in today's technological age, has probably been documented on video. The relationship between the first word you might have spoken and writing is essentially the same. Speaking was a skill you developed through imitation. Eventually, you developed your own linguistic patterns and ways of speaking, but that initial skill was acquired through copying the sounds that were heard. Success in writing, and developing your writing ability, is also a skill that is developed through imitation until you acquire your own 'voice' in your writing.

Linguistic Understanding

Reading makes you a better writer. Every successful poet reads poetry; every novelist reads novels; every essayist reads essays. Improving your writing is not specific to genre; however, and poets, novelists and essayists don't limit themselves to reading only the genre they practice because it limits the development of writing. Reading different types of texts improves a variety of writing skills, and literacy improves linguistic understanding (voice, sentence structure, meaning, etc.) regardless of genre. In the same way that speech was developed through the imitation of the sounds you heard, your writing is developed through the exposure to other written words.

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