Is a writing qualification essential?

Do we need any special qualifications to become a writer? What do we mean by qualifications? Academic? On-the-job? Attending writing classes? Vocational qualifications? Would a degree in English, for example, be a pre-requisite? Or would you need to have a degree in writing or journalism, whatever? Those are the questions many aspiring writers often ask themselves when they get into the realm of writing.

There’s no straightforward answer to it. Different people appreciate it in different ways. Most writers, coaches or writing course providers would say you don’t need an English degree. They’d say a good command of English is all you need.

Indeed, you should be able to write and express yourself in a way readers would understand what you want to convey. You have to like writing and be prepared to work at it, consistently, as I mentioned in my post “Habits of daily, scheduled writing vs good writing habits”. There are a variety of ways you can do this: blogging, creative writing, reporting, essay, or whatever. Perhaps that would be the starting point, the basic secret. Remember, I didn’t say qualification.

But if you are aiming at freelance writing then it’s got to do with couple of more important things. You’ll be dealing with professionals in the field, editors of magazines and papers. You’d need to master a number of skills, from writing and research to communication, inter-personal and organizational skills, basic management skills.

In simpler terms it means: expressing ideas clearly and succinctly; doing background research before writing any content for a magazine article; ability to interact with humans (editors, literary agents); organizing ideas, proposals or assignments to reflect well-crafted pieces you want to sell; and managing your time. Nobody would be interested in an article that doesn’t hook, where the story seems to lag and starts boring at the first couple of lines. Good story telling techniques are all the more crucial.

So to sum up the whole issue, I’d say: You may have a good English degree, but it’s important that you acquire skills that would make of you a successful writer, if it is this that you are determined to be.

Keep writing.

Contributor/Journalist,
Occupational Safety & Health Management Professional,
Personnel Management & Industrial Relations Professional,
Blogger, and Retired Civil Servant.
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3 thoughts on “Is a writing qualification essential?

  1. I would completely agree, but with a single caveat: sometimes qualifications are needed outside of any literary merit. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to read a text book on medicine written by someone who read a couple of articles on the internet; I’d want to learn from someone who had years of training. A legal thriller is almost always better told from a well versed lawyer than someone who just decided to watch an hour of Court TV and go off on a tangent.

    Good post though — “qualified to write” has been a sticking point for me in sending out queries for my book lately.

  2. Nobody cares if you can’t dance, just get up and dance. This is the first thing that pops into my mind every time I read about somebody being hesitant about writing. We live in a society that seems to be in a constant state of introspection, where such is not needed. A zest-for-life, naturalistic worldview, along with a rock-solid ability to put words together in their proper sequence, is all that is necessary.

    –Jack Payne

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