Get All Access for $5/mo

Learn to Write, for God's Sake In this digital world, your reputation is based primarily on what and how you write. Unfortunately, your writing sucks.

By Steve Tobak Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


In our politically correct culture, words speak louder than actions. I can't tell you just how screwed up I think that is, but, like it or not, it is the new normal. And for purposes of this post and this post only, we're simply going to accept that at face value.

In today's digital world, people rarely know what you actually do, so what you say and how you say it determines how you're perceived. And I'm not just referring to the spoken word. Now more than ever, your reputation is based mostly on what and how you write. No other form of communication even comes close.

Unfortunately, your writing sucks. That may offend you, but, in my estimation, only a small percentage of you would be rightfully offended. The sad truth is that the vast majority of you need to hear what I just said and understand what it portends. (If you don't know what that means, that's sort of what I'm talking about.)

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying you've got to be a paragon of grammar and composition or a walking "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White. God knows, I'm neither. But if you pay attention to our culture's most accomplished executives and business leaders, which I suspect you do, then you'll notice that they all write well. And with good reason.

For thousands of years, people have sought the origins of power. From the power of love and habit to the power of prayer and meditation. From the power of positive thinking and personal habits to the power of persuasion and politics. For my money, I'd go with the power of the pen. The written word ranks among the most potent sources of power on Earth.

Related: Want to Save the World? First Save Yourself.

From Machiavelli and Shakespeare to Dickens and Twain. From The Prince and The Odyssey to Walden and War and Peace. Without a doubt, great authors and their works have the power to influence humanity – not just in their time but also for generations after they've passed.

There is no instrument you will ever touch that's more powerful than what I'm using right now: a keyboard. Whether it's physical or virtual, that powerful device exists solely to produce one simple construct: the written word.

While few of us will ever be seen or heard on TV or YouTube, a single post on this site alone may be read by a million people or more. Not just ordinary people, mind you, but all types of individuals from every walk of life and every nation on Earth. There are those seeking guidance and those seeking to guide others. There are famous personalities, star athletes, CEOs, business leaders, and regular folks like you and me.

When those people read your profile, what would you have them know of you? When they read your posts and comments, what would you have them think of you? When they read your tweets and updates, how would you want them to perceive you? And when they read your words, how would you like them to remember you?

Would you want them to know that you're easy to rattle and quick to anger? Would you have them think that you're illiterate? Would you want them to perceive that you have such little self-respect as to not care how you come across? And when they again hear your name, would you like them to remember that you're narcissistic or lack integrity?

That's what I thought.

Related: Want Big Things Out of Life? Expect Big Things of Yourself.

If you want to get ahead in this world, learn to write. Use what you learn in every blog post, every contributed article, every email, every comment, every tweet, and every status update. Edit every word before hitting "post." Read everything twice before clicking "send." If that means communicating less but with higher quality, good.

To become an effective writer, learn from the best. Quit wasting your time on self-help and business books by authors of questionable authority and ability and indulge in classic literature, renowned contemporary fiction, and high-quality narrative non-fiction. And for God's sake, quit screwing around reading popular nonsense online.

Learn to organize your thoughts and write with purpose. Be genuine, direct, concise, and impactful. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

If you find yourself embellishing the truth, you're overreaching and that's not acceptable. Quit writing and get to work. Once you have more real-world experience and accomplishments under your belt, you'll have more confidence and be less inclined to risk ruining your reputation by generating BS content to satisfy your ego.

One last thing: I'm not a professional writer. Not even close. I'm a product of the New York City public school system. I was practically illiterate after college and spent 25 years in the business world before publishing a thing. I've worked hard at this and, while it's been a struggle, it apparently can be done. You can do it, too. And you should.

Related: Want to Be Successful? Be the Best at What You Do.

Steve Tobak

Author of Real Leaders Don't Follow

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive, and author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur (Entrepreneur Press, October 2015). Tobak runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting and blogs at, where you can contact him and learn more.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick


ChatGPT is Becoming More Human-Like. Here's How The Tool is Getting Smarter at Replicating Your Voice, Brand and Personality.

AI can be instrumental in building your brand and boosting awareness, but the right approach is critical. A custom GPT delivers tailored collateral based on your ethos, personality and unique positioning factors.

Business News

Apple Reportedly Isn't Paying OpenAI to Use ChatGPT in iPhones

The next big iPhone update brings ChatGPT directly to Apple devices.

Business News

Is the AI Industry Consolidating? Hugging Face CEO Says More AI Entrepreneurs Are Looking to Be Acquired

Clément Delangue, the CEO of Hugging Face, a $4.5 billion startup, says he gets at least 10 acquisition requests a week and it's "increased quite a lot."

Business News

You Can Now Apply to Renew Your U.S. Passport Online — But There's a Catch

The U.S. State Department officially launched the beta program this week.

Business News

Sony Pictures Entertainment Purchases Struggling, Cult-Favorite Movie Theater Chain

Alamo Drafthouse originally emerged from bankruptcy in June 2021.

Growing a Business

He Immigrated to the U.S. and Got a Job at McDonald's — Then His Aversion to Being 'Too Comfortable' Led to a Fast-Growing Company That's Hard to Miss

Voyo Popovic launched his moving and storage company in 2018 — and he's been innovating in the industry ever since.