Learning to write is not just about handwriting or spelling
When we talk about problems with writing most people think we are referring to spelling or handwriting. Although these are both part of writing, for some people the process is more complex and they find it hard to put their thoughts down on paper. For students, this might mean that writing a story or an essay is very hard. These difficulties are sometimes described as Dysgraphia. Some poor writers are actually good readers.
Writing is harder than reading
Writing is a very complex process. It is an interaction of many skills that need to be used simultaneously. Initially it involves planning and generating ideas, and setting goals. Once writing starts, the writer will have to retrieve knowledge from their long-term memory, and hold information in their working memory. As they write they must put the words in an order that makes sense – it must be grammatically correct, and spelt correctly. A good writer will constantly be reviewing as they write and changing and developing their text. There will be many processes happening simultaneously, and the writer will also have to be monitoring the physical act of writing with a pen, or typing.
Difficulties with writing
Unfortunately, some people have difficulties with writing. Some people have difficulties that are specifically related to writing, as well as reading and spelling, and may have what is called a specific learning difficulty, or dyslexia. Not everyone with a writing difficulty has dyslexia, but with the right teaching and programs reading, writing and spelling difficulties can be improved for most people (at any age).
Like dyslexia, dysgraphia is a specific learning disability, and refers to the ability to produce written expression. A person with dysgraphia may present with difficulties with spelling, poor handwriting and trouble putting their thoughts on paper. Having poor handwriting, does not necessarily mean you have dysgraphia. A person with dysgraphia may write their letters in reverse, forget how letters are formed, or use lower or upper case letters randomly. They may have a lot of difficulty spelling words correctly, struggle to form written sentences, have trouble writing using the correct grammar and punctuation, leave words out of a sentence, and write words in the wrong order. However, they may have good oral language skills and be able to describe things much better than they can write about them.
Can we fix poor writing skills?
Absolutely! There are many ways that we can help poor writers improve their written work.