(Originally published August 2017) Would you read more if you knew you would be a better writer at work? Because you will be. And reading will also benefit your physical, mental and emotional health too.
Sadly, too many of us aren’t reading. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, less than half of adults in the U.S. read literature. And the Pew Research Center says 27% of adults go an entire year without reading a book. That’s sad on many levels. As they say, the person who doesn’t read is worse off than the person who can’t read.
How reading improves your life
Why should you read? Because reading is good for you in multiple ways. Yes, my main concern is to help you be a better writer at work, but I also want you to live a better life. And reading can help. According to Healthline.com, reading books:
- Improves brain connectivity
- Increases your vocabulary and comprehension
- Makes you more empathetic
- Helps you sleep
- Reduces stress
- Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
- Fights depression symptoms
- Prevents cognitive decline as you age
Wow! With a list of benefits like that, I’m ready to read more whether it helps my writing at work or not!
How reading improves your writing at work
Now, what about the workplace? Beyond all the personal benefits listed above, how does reading help you be a better writer at work? Reading develops your work writing skills in multiple ways. Reading:
- Improves your spelling
- Builds your vocabulary
- Trains your mind to recognize correct grammar and structure
- Exposes you to different writing style to help you develop your own
Since your writing at work is often your first impression and a critical part of your personal brand, these benefits seem worth the effort of reading to me. How about you?
What should you read?
Now, you might be wondering if this reading means you have to pick up “War and Peace.” Not at all. When I say reading, I don’t mean a particular genre or even fiction vs. nonfiction. What you read is less important than simply reading. But do keep in mind that quality counts. When you read established authors and writers, you’re also learning lessons from experienced and proven masters, in the same way that you learn from masters of cooking, soccer or public speaking.
Six ways to read more to write better
OK, so that all sounds good, right? Reading is good for you, it’s good for your career, you get it. But how are you supposed to read more? If you’re not sure how to make reading part of your daily life or where to start, try these six ideas:
- Just read. Read more, and read a variety. Read short and read long. Read fiction and nonfiction. Read for work and read for rest. Read the cereal box in the morning and the wine label in the evening. Read. Read. Read. Make it part of your day every day.
- Find a well-written newsletter or blog that you like and commit to reading it daily or at least weekly. (Also be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter where I try to write well and sometimes suggest books.)
- Read real books—yes, books, the kind printed on paper that you hold in your hands (or ebooks). It’s fine to read online articles and email newsletters. But you still need to read books. The types of books matter less than the reading of them. They can be fiction or nonfiction, contemporary or classic, mysteries or memoirs. Just try to make sure they are well-written by checking reviews or asking friends for recommendations. And make books a part of your lifestyle every day, not just on vacations or plane trips.
Read real books—yes, books, the kind printed on paper that you hold in your hands.
- Discover new books. Our world is full of them! Branch out of your comfort zone and read a book by a new author or on a new subject. Wander through a bookstore. Browse Amazon. Use your public library. Ask friends to loan you books they’ve enjoyed. Find lists of suggested books or try one of the 17 ideas suggested here.
- Always carry a book with you. You never know when you’ll have a few spare minutes, and you’re much better off picking up a book to read than getting on your damn phone for mindless scrolling. When you take your car in for an oil change or you go to the dentist, when you head to the airport to pick up your spouse or you wait at a restaurant when meeting a friend…we all have these spare minutes in our busy days that can be filled with a book and do us some good rather than filled with the junk that is social media.
You’re much better off picking up a book to read than getting on your damn phone for mindless scrolling.
- Listen to audiobooks. It’s a crazy busy world, and many of us find we have little time to read. Audiobooks can help. You don’t get the same benefits compared to reading a printed book which means you’re sitting down and relaxing, but you will still be exposed to other worlds, to other people, to new writing styles and words. I listen to audiobooks while working in the garden and the kitchen, while cleaning and while driving in the car. It makes all those mundane tasks much more enjoyable! You can also listen to audiobooks when walking or running or doing some other activity that doesn’t require your brain. Plus audiobooks are free if you get them through your local library.
Audiobooks make mundane tasks much more enjoyable!
Be a better writer and a better reader
Reading more will make you a better, faster writer at work, so your writing has the five characteristics of good business writing. But it also makes you a better reader, which will benefit you at work too, as you process what others write faster and with a more critical eye.
Now, what will you read next?