Read To Be A Better Writer

Reading As The Foundation For Writing

       Anyone who has ever assembled a piece of furniture can probably tell you that reading the directions without looking at a diagram makes the task much more difficult and confusing than it really needs to be. Once you have an example in front of you showing you what you need to do, it becomes much easier. The same is true of the writing process. It makes sense that if you don't read, if you haven't seen an example of what you are trying to create, producing a quality essay or paper is going to be extremely difficult. For those who only read the back of the cereal box in the morning or billboards on the highway that they pass on the way to work, composing a written paragraph that is clear and informative would probably be a struggle. This has nothing to do with intelligence, it has to do with possessing a point of reference in your own mind that you can use to make a mental template for what you would like to create. 

Writing Skills Are Influenced By Reading Habits

       In his 2006 article, Morris Freedman says "We have always had teachers at every level who understood that reading underpins writing". In my opinion, those teachers have the right idea. To be able to compose words into a coherent and flowing body of text, whether it is poetry or prose, requires an understanding of the language and how it can be used. What better way to learn this than by reading a wide variety of written work? With every body of work that a person reads, they are learning from the author. They learn how different people play with language to suit the purpose of their writing. Each new author is a new teacher, and even a romance novel can be a textbook in learning to write. The more you read, and the greater the variety of the things you read, the more you will have to draw from as a writer. When you read, you assimilate more than the content of the text; you also assimilate the way it was written, even if it is only on a subconscious level.

       For a very long time my favorite author was Dean Koontz. This man has a very unique writing style, and it is imprinted undeniably on each and every book that I have read by him. I have found that if I write something while I am in the process of reading one of his novels, a little bit of his distinct voice starts to peek through my writing. It influences my sentence structure, my choice of words, and my tone. Even though the finished work is mine, a fan of his writing just might be able to spot his influence in it. The same is true of William Shakespeare, after reading his plays a little of his playful and dramatic personality adds itself to my writing. So, if you think about it, the quality of what you read really does have an impact on the way you write. If all you read is the newspaper, chances are you'll be great at writing dry, fact-centered, informative articles. But would you be able to write poetry or satire? Maybe you could. But you could certainly write it better if you have read various excerpts of poetry and satire before you begin. 

Is Reading Really That Important?

        I deeply value reading in my life. Reading, for me, is a vehicle into the realm of infinite possibilities. Whether I am reading about history, current events, or some science-fiction fantasy novel, reading opens up a window into a whole new world of information. It takes me through that window with a new tour guide each time, and each new tour guide presents the world beyond in a different light. I can't remember a time in my life when reading wasn't important to me. Even now, with a hectic schedule of work, parenting, socializing, and schoolwork I still make the effort to read for my own pleasure. Given the choice between a good book and watching television or a movie, nine times out of ten I'll take the book.

        I believe that in order to write, one must first have an idea of what their finished piece of writing will be like. To have that plan, one must first know what a piece of writing really looks like. To understand a piece of writing, you need to read it. This is the basic foundation for becoming a writer. It is as essential as viewing a variety of building structures would be to an architect or as utilizing a variety of software would be to a computer programmer. Forming a knowledge base gives you a platform to jump off of, and in the case of writing, that platform is built by reading.

- Bonnie Jahns, 2008

Freedman, Morris (2006), “You Can’t Learn to Write Without Reading”, Education Week Vol. 26, Issue 12

 Last updated on September 4, 2011

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Comments 6 comments

shea duane profile image

shea duane 3 years ago from new jersey

I wish more people felt this way.

Good hub

Phoenicia profile image

Phoenicia 3 years ago from Connecticut Hub Author


Thank you :) Maybe if we readers get the word out we can recruit a few more!

- Bonnie

Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

Jo_Goldsmith11 3 years ago

A very good hub here. You hit all the key points. Great to hear that you have good taste in authors like Dean Koontz. Our family likes him as well as David Baldacci.

One of my favorite Dean Koontz books is Fear Nothing.

It is in a cartoon format but it is well worth the read, if you like cartoons characters. I voted up!

Nice work. :) Welcome to the hub Pages family! :)

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Level 7 Commenter

Welcome to HubPages. I enjoyed this hub and look forward to reading more as you publish them.

Reading broadly, as well as reading well-written books, are definitely prerequisites for learning to write well.

Given the choice between reading a book or watching a story unfold on the screen, I opt for the book most of the time. Most people who are "hooked on reading" would probably do the same. I've been addicted to the written word since I was four years old, so I've read a LOT of books!


SheliaKay profile image

SheliaKay 3 years ago from Marietta, Ohio..... but born and raised in Northern Ohio on Lake Erie

Excellent hub. Reading for me takes me to a completely different place, and I will choose a good book over a television show every time myself. Welcome to Hubpages. I am looking forward in reading more of your writings.

Phoenicia profile image

Phoenicia 3 years ago from Connecticut Hub Author


Thank you all very much for the praise :) I'm glad to know there are others who agree with this viewpoint. I think it's important that we pass it along to younger people who may struggle with writing. There is so much writing required for school now at all levels that it's really important to get kids interested in reading early!

- Bonnie

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