There’s an ongoing debate asking whether or not the book is “dead” or becoming irrelevant as today’s digital age opts for screens over paper, but make no mistake: language, writing and communications are more prevalent than ever.
The Internet has created an ever-expanding space demanding content, and we have more formats than ever to share ideas and talent and more products than ever to advertise and explain. It’s a good time to be a writer.
But if you’re not sure how to harness the power of your written communication skills, read on to learn about what it takes to excel in this field and the many jobs you can thrive in.
Important qualities for all writers
The Bureau of Labor Statistics calls out specific qualities that writing positions can require, and here they are, rounded up, to give a comprehensive look at the many facets needed to become an excellent writer:
- Detail oriented
- Good judgment
- Interpersonal skills
- Language skills
- Organizational skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Communication skills
- Computer skills
- Critical-thinking skills
- Social perceptiveness
1. Copy editors* review copy for errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling and check the copy for readability, style and agreement with editorial policy. They suggest revisions, such as changing words and rearranging sentences and paragraphs to improve clarity or accuracy. They also may carry out research, confirm sources for writers and verify facts, dates and statistics. In addition, they may arrange page layouts of articles, photographs and advertising.
2. Publication assistants who work for book-publishing houses may read and evaluate manuscripts submitted by freelance writers, proofread uncorrected proofs and answer questions about published material. Assistants on small newspapers or in smaller media markets may compile articles available from wire services or the Internet, answer phones and proofread articles. Executive editors oversee assistant editors and generally have the final say about what stories are published and how they are covered.
3. Executive editors typically hire writers, reporters and other employees. They also plan budgets and negotiate contracts with freelance writers, who are sometimes called “stringers” in the news industry. Although many executive editors work for newspaper publishers, some work for television broadcasters, magazines or advertising and public relations firms.
4. Assistant editors are responsible for a particular subject, such as local news, international news, feature stories or sports. Most assistant editors work for newspaper publishers, television broadcasters, magazines, book publishers or advertising and public relations firms.
5. Managing editors typically work for magazines, newspaper publishers and television broadcasters and are responsible for the daily operation of a news department.
6. Public relations specialists, also called communications specialists and media specialists, handle an organization’s communication with the public, including consumers, investors, reporters and other media specialists. In government, public relations specialists may be called press secretaries. In this setting, workers keep the public informed about the activities of government officials and agencies.
7. Journalists for print media conduct interviews and write articles to be used in newspapers, magazines and online publications. Because most newspapers and magazines have both print and online versions, reporters typically produce content for both versions. Doing so often requires staying up to date with new developments of a story, so that the online editions can be updated with the most current information.
8. Technical writers create operating instructions, how-to manuals, assembly instructions and “frequently asked questions” pages to help technical support staff, consumers and other users within a company or an industry. After a product is released, technical writers also may work with product liability specialists and customer service managers to improve the end-user experience through product design changes. Some technical writers help write grant proposals for research scientists and institutions.
9. Copywriters prepare advertisements to promote the sale of a good or service. They often work with a client to produce advertising themes, jingles and slogans.
10. Biographers write a thorough account of a person’s life. They gather information from interviews and research about the person to accurately portray important events in that person’s life.
11. Generalists write about any topic of interest, unlike writers who usually specialize in a given field.
12. Novelists write books of fiction, creating characters and plots that may be imaginary or based on real events.
13. Songwriters compose music and lyrics for songs. They may write and perform their own songs or sell their work to a music publisher. They sometimes work with a client to produce advertising themes, jingles, and slogans and they may be involved in marketing the product or service.
14. Playwrights write scripts for theatrical productions. They produce lines for actors to say, stage direction for actors to follow, and ideas for theatrical set design.
15. Screenwriters create scripts for movies and television. They may produce original stories, characters and dialogue or turn a book into a movie or television script. Some may produce content for radio broadcasts and other types of performance.