Ideas Matter: writing with purpose

Ideas are the root of creation, says French priest and writer Ernest Dimnet (1866-1954). The only valuable things for any knowledge seeker are the ideas. The ideas bring phenomenal changes in the thought process of the people and have the power to change the world. Writers play a central part in public discourse. They give new ideas and new perspectives in their writ-ups that influence change in the thinking pattern of the society. Language is the vehicle which drives their writing and thought is the fuel which powers the engine. The well-placed and well-chosen words craft magic in the flow of sentences. The readers smoothly sail through the words, sentences, paragraphs and the meanings are swiftly manifested in their minds. If you are a writer, writing should not be for the sake of writing. It should not satisfy one’s ego or to seek the attention to appreciate the style of writing. One can gather information and report it in the international papers in an immaculate English style but creating ideas and writing it down is not everybody’s cup of tea. There could be small slip-ups and structural flaws in the contents but it is ultimately the ideas that have a profound influence over the lives of tens of thousands beautiful minds.

A write-up that is well phrased, grammatically correct and without spelling errors is going to be easier to understand for the vast majority of people. The first and foremost concern of a serious reader is the content of a write-up and how it is being presented. If the content is meaningful, small grammatical errors can be ignored but if you have spectacularly formed sentences about nothing, it is entirely meaningless. Grammar is important but not more important than the substantive content the author has made. To a certain extent, it does matter how the message is being delivered and it is important to write as fine as one can possibly do, but the writer must not miss the main idea while holding on to a grammar. This may lead to a situation we call “operation is successful but the patient is dead“. While the typographical, grammar and spelling errors cannot be appreciated at all, the factual errors create mistrust among the readers. A person may be a stickler for syntax, punctuation, spelling and structure, however the only time he/she can really say something is ‘wrong’, is when the meaning of the content is either unclear or ambiguous. All in all, one can be a biggest grammar nerd and stink at someone’s grammar but it is ultimately the message and the idea which matters in a write-up. So let’s not ask if content has small errors but pay heed to the juicy fruit it bears!

People from sciences may not care about writing their scientific articles and other studies in an immaculate English because they all along focus on communicating their ideas and findings. Writing scientific research papers in English has its own style, rhythm, terminology and acronyms and it is not necessary that those who write well in English can write well for the scientific literature. The research manuscripts normally go through several layers of review and proofreading before being finally published and there are plenty of opportunities for errors to be rectified. Peer reviewing is mostly used to weed out bad science but it also has the effect on language polishing. In the review process, good journals usually insist on correcting major errors, mistakes etc which they report to the authors while the common grammatical errors remain largely unnoticed as long as they do not change the meaning of the content. Moreover, the publishing house more often accepts assignments with sloppy syntax as long as content is substantive. Apart from this, It is generally observed that professional scientists are not amazing writers and do not write spectacularly well. Many don’t know much English nor consider the value of importance of grammar. The common mistakes do happen always. Those who claim to be perfectionists, still something can slip through. Einstein was an excellent writer. Had he worried over his vocabulary, he might not have expanded the domain of science. Nevertheless, we must always strive for expressing ourselves correctly and appropriately in academic writing.

Writing is mostly a spontaneous and self-reflection process. For some people writing is a medium of communication and expression while for others it is a creative endeavor. Some people define writing as an ‘art and craft’ while some others say it is a science to read the minds of the people. There is so much up there in the whirlpool of imagination that swirls in the depths of the mind. As is said, everyone has a book inside them; it’s just a matter of getting it out. People want to share their thoughts; the events they faced in their lives, explore curious questions and want their voice to be heard in a noisy world. Having seen the pain and the sorrow, the bitter and the unforgiving thought, many others haven’t seen it. They want to help others find their way along the rocky paths and heal their suffering. There is a compulsive desire to write this all in an organized and concise manner to release thoughts and pent-up feelings. Some people are fascinated to see the parts of life that are beautiful and interesting. Writing allows them to produce something new to express their creativity. The genres of writing like poetry, fiction, and novel are is art for them. The art evokes the emotions and the craft encourages skills. Both need wonderful imagination and generally seen as a gift from God. Though achievable through hard work and perseverance but it doesn’t need any specific qualification.

There is a famous saying by Einstein, that “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” To communicate a message as clearly as possible, a writer must present his writing in a simple and straightforward manner. Writing is about hitting your mark when you put your words to use and the readers are able to easily wade through and get across the message. Writing effectively using simple sentences and short words is a mark of very good writing. The use of flowery language to show off your language skills makes people to hang up which defeats the very purpose of writing. I have seen the best people in the fields write so simple even a lay person can understand their ideas. This way they include others and let their ideas be accessible. Putting messages which are deep, compelling and stunning to papers, spreading ideas provokes response from the people and makes them to think and change their perception. This can change the lives of the people, open their minds and paint a smile on their faces. It is such a rewarding feeling to light up some one’s face.

Dr Muhmmad Amin Malik author is a college principal

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