The Government of Canada’s Skills for Success model defines writing as “your ability to share information using written words, symbols, and images.”
During a typical day, you probably write for many different audiences and situations. At work, you might write emails, reports, or memos. You may need to fill out a credit card or job application. And you probably communicate with friends and family by text message—and with wider audiences using social media.
What to write, how much to write, and what style or tone to use will be different in each situation. You need to make sure your writing is suitable for your purpose and for the intended reader.
Writing is one of the 9 skills identified in the Government of Canada’s Skills for Success model. Launched in 2021, this model updates the original Essential Skills Framework to reflect changes in the Canadian labour market and the modern workplace.
The way you write can have a significant impact on how others perceive you and your work. No matter what your occupation, time spent developing your writing skills is a smart investment.
What does writing include?
The Skills for Success model divides writing skills into 6 components:
- Identify the task that requires writing. What is the purpose of the task? Are you looking to inform or to persuade? What is the topic? Who are you writing for?
- Plan your writing. Gather information and generate ideas. Decide what information to include, how much you need to write, and the level of detail to use. Draft an outline.
- Use written words to achieve your purpose. Fill in your draft, writing freely on paper, or at a keyboard, to get the ideas down. Use all the words you need to express your ideas as clearly as you can—you can cut and revise later.
- Choose the appropriate language and style. Use the tone (formal or informal) and language appropriate for your audience and context. Use persuasive techniques, supporting evidence, and technical vocabulary to suit your purpose.
- Choose the appropriate format for the writing task. To organize your ideas, use paragraphs, bullet points, numbered lists, and sub-headings. Charts, tables, or graphs may help to clarify information. Use standard workplace documents as needed, like accident report forms, time sheets, or memo boards.
- Review and revise your writing. Proofread and correct your writing for grammar and spelling, meaning, tone, and accuracy. Be bold—cut unnecessary words.
Measuring writing skills
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Your proficiency level is your ability to complete writing tasks of different difficulty levels. As you practise your writing skills, you’ll be able to:
- Plan and write longer pieces with more detailed or complex information.
- Write for a variety of purposes, like explaining, requesting information, expressing opinions, giving directions, comparing, or analyzing.
- Write original pieces in which tone and mood are as important as the content.
For writing, the Skills for Success model defines 5 levels of proficiency. Here are examples of writing tasks that you might do at each level:
- Level 1. Create a to-do list or send a quick email reminder to colleagues about an upcoming meeting or deadline.
- Level 2. Write a weekly status report describing your progress on different tasks, using the same format every week.
- Level 3. Write a long email giving a coworker clear and concise direction on how to complete a task.
- Level 4. Write a well-organized report on the performance of a product or service your company offers. Include detailed information, analysis, and your conclusions or recommendations.
- Level 5. Write advertising copy for a new product. Be engaging, creative, and align the text with the brand’s image and target audience.
Writing skills in action
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You can probably think of several occupations that focus specifically on writing—like advertising copywriter, creative writer, reporter, and technical writer. But strong writing skills are valuable in many other occupations. For example:
- Human resources professionals write job postings, employment policies, and staff training materials.
- Social media specialists compose editorials and promotional material, creating content for various social media channels.
- Statisticians write clear, concise reports in language appropriate for intended readers.
The best ways to build your writing skills will depend on the level you’re starting at, as well as your goals. But here are some useful strategies for writers at all levels:
- Learn grammar and punctuation. Having a strong grasp of the basic rules of grammar will help you write more clearly and effectively.
- Write, write, and write some more. Try to write every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Writing for different audiences and purposes will help you develop a range of skills.
- Review your work carefully. Take the time to review your work and make revisions. If possible, step away from the writing so that you can come back and see it with fresh eyes.
- Read your work aloud. This is a great way to test whether the message is clear, and the tone is right for your audience and purpose.
- Get feedback. Share your writing with others and ask for feedback. Constructive criticism can help you identify areas for improvement.
- Take advantage of technology. Many tools can help you improve your writing—from the old-fashioned dictionary and thesaurus to electronic grammar and spell checkers.
- Read widely and use good writing as a model for your own writing. Reading exposes you to different styles and formats of writing. Study the writing of authors you admire and try to emulate their style, tone, and structure.
Online learning courses
Improve your core skills at home by taking online courses. Online learning offers courses covering a wide range of topics, and some platforms offer free courses or free trials. Find out what your options are by searching these online learning sites for the skills you want to build:
Check out these resources to help you assess and build your writing skills:
- Try the Skills Canada essential skills test on writing.
- Complete the writing self-assessment worksheet [pdf] from the Government of Canada.
- Download the Skills for Success Work Ready Youth Program writing workbook for a thorough overview of basic forms of writing, along with a wide range of practical examples and exercises.
- Walk through the stages of the basic writing process with the ABC Skills Hub online writing workshop. You can also download the Get Started writing workbook.
- Get help with your writing skills at an adult learning centre near you.
- Take your creative, technical, or business writing skills up a notch with an online or in-person course or workshop. Your local library and continuing education providers are good places to start.
Explore the Skills for Success
Although particular skills may be more important in some jobs than others, all 9 skills in the Skills for Success model are needed for most occupations. These skills are not just about work—they come into play throughout our lives, forming a foundation for other technical and life skills, knowledge, and relationships.
Develop Your Core Skills and Traits
Learn about the other skills for success:
- Creativity and innovation
- Problem solving
Skills for Success: Writing (1:02)
Writing helps you communicate ideas and information to other people. In today’s world, your writing skills must be adaptable for many different situations—including digital platforms. Knowing what to write and how much to write is important. It’s also important to know what writing style is suitable for your purpose and your intended reader.