What You Read Matters-to Your Writing (Application Essays & Much Else)

Thanks for your kind words.

Every writer knows this, which is why we teach writing by emphasizing the value of close reading – but now it’s official. There’s been a study, and it’s examined in this Quartz article, “What You Read Matters Matter More than You Might Think.”

The punchline: close reading of complex texts, including literature, will have a much more positive effect on your writing than hours with eyes on Reddit. I’m so not surprised, but the piece is fascinating nevertheless, and may convince you to read a little deeper, a little closer, not only because it’ll improve your writing but because it’s wonderful to be engaged. Here’s the opening:

“A study published in the International Journal of Business Administration in May 2016, found that what students read in college directly affects the level of writing they achieve. In fact, researchers found that reading content and frequency may exert more significant impacts on students’ writing ability than writing instruction and writing frequency. Students who read academic journals, literary fiction, or general nonfiction wrote with greater syntactic sophistication (more complex sentences) than those who read fiction (mysteries, fantasy, or science fiction) or exclusively web-based aggregators like Reddit, Tumblr, and BuzzFeed. The highest scores went to those who read academic journals; the lowest scores went to those who relied solely on web-based content.

 “The difference between deep and light reading

“Recent research also revealed that “deep reading”—defined as reading that is slow, immersive, rich in sensory detail and emotional and moral complexity—is distinctive from light reading—little more than the decoding of words. Deep reading occurs when the language is rich in detail, allusion, and metaphor, and taps into the same brain regions that would activate if the reader were experiencing the event. Deep reading is great exercise for the brain, and has been shown to increase empathy, as the reader dives deeper and adds reflection, analysis, and personal subtext to what is being read. It also offers writers a way to appreciate all the qualities that make novels fascinating and meaningful—and to tap into his ability to write on a deeper level.” READ THE REST