Why Reading Makes You A Better Writer

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April 28, 2017 by Kathryn Kuttis

IMG_5815Reading gives you all the tools you need to become a writer. In a nutshell, the more you read the more exposure you have to writing.

While grammar is important, great writing is about the use of observational skills and empathy. In public relations writing, the goal is to put ideas into words in a way that key audiences can understand. A good writer shows an audience what they know and how they think.

Hiroko Tabuchi who won a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism wrote an article in the New York Times this week on corporate practices and climate targets. I asked students in J452 to read it and look for ways she used writing to easily explain complex concepts. We created a list for the myriad ways she described emissions and climate change and noticed how she turned abstract concepts into simple relatable ideas.

At some point in our education, we realize that we don’t know what we know until we know it. In other words, we need to see and feel the impact of good writing before we can attempt it ourselves.

For some, it can seem intimidating to read a well-written article or book. Edited and published it seems too perfect in its final form and unrelated to our own writing attempts. But it is the same struggle for anyone who wants to write. Writing takes time. It’s more about thinking than the actual writing.

If I had to marry one publication and only read that for the rest of my life, it would be The New Yorker. I always have at least one copy of it in my bag. It’s been a companion to me on airplanes, waiting rooms and sunny park benches for almost 30 years.

I even used The New Yorker as the subject of my master’s thesis on representation so we could spend more time together. It took three delightful years to examine its cryptic cover illustrations and use their silent narratives to create my own “covers.”

If you aren’t familiar with The New Yorker please come by my office and grab a copy. The writing will pull you in immediately and teach you something. The issue or subject of the article won’t matter much. It’s that good.

Here are the kernels for this week:

Heineken Just Put Out The Antidote to that Pepsi Kendall Jenner Ad (FastCompany) Why do brands want to help people with opposing views come together? Can they? How is social media responding to this ad?

ESPN Layoffs a Lesson in Owning the Narrative (prnewsonline.com) How can transparency and key message points help control an unwelcome news announcement.

Rescuing the Last Two Animals at the Mosul Zoo (NewYorker) How does looking through the lens of an animal help connect audiences to the realities of war?

Google Fights Back Against Fake News After Trump Upset Election (Newsweek) How does fake news change the way brands and public figures work with the media?

Hulu Put One of Its Most Ambitious Marketing Pushes to Date Behind Its Adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale (AdWeek) How is their partnership a good fit for the campaign?

Independence Days: My Perfect Imperfect Gap Year (NYTs) How do college students gain independence from their parents and begin to see education as its own reward?

Why we should all be afraid of Ivanka Trump’s mismatched earrings (Guardian) What is visual messaging? Can a brand be defined by earrings?

Could Posting Your Food Photos Help You Eat Healthier? (Food+Wine) New ideas behind social media and the influence of visual images.

Anticipated showdown at UC Berkeley over Ann Coulter invitation is more of a shouting match than a melee (LA Times) How could this have been handled differently? What is the University’s position?

The Obamas face the paid-speaking circuit — and all the questions that come with it (Wshington Post) How do speaking opportunities help build thought leadership? Why does the media hold politicians to a different standard when it comes to speaking fees?

The (Sometimes Unintentional) Subtext of Digital Conversations (The Atlantic) The art and science of digital conversations and social media.

Report: Employee engagement a top priority, but it’s not so easy (Ragan.com) As employers look to engage  how does internal communications play a role?


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If you share an interest in public relations, media and visual design, this might be a good place for you to hang out. I started this blog to exchange ideas with my students at the University of Oregon. They keep me (and maybe you too) at the forefront of social media, visual communication and career development. Here you'll find our best ideas, links and learning as we write, create and blog our way through a course on Strategic PR Communication.

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