why is writing important in social work

06 Dec 2020
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If eligibility criteria or application instructions are buried in unnecessary details and complicated language, people may be discouraged from applying for services or taking part in programs your agency offers. Please contact the publisher for permission to reproduce or reprint any materials on this site. Social work ethics do not condone the use of language that undermines a person’s well-being. Social workers write a lot and their writing has a major impact on people's lives. King, M., Winton, A., & Adkins, A. It’s not difficult to measure reading grade level if you have an electronic version of your text. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Remember, you spent many years in school learning to read and write at much higher reading levels than what you’re aiming for. Effective communication skills are one of the most crucial components of a social worker’s job. Downing & A. L. Brown (Eds). Achieving Racial Equity Through Social Work: Undoing Racism, Working With Refugees: International Social Work Without Leaving Home. Maxine is a Social Work, who encourages her clients to call her at home when they need her. They improve readability by illustrating the messages in the words. Writing can help with your social skills. It allows you to communicate better: One of the biggest benefits that comes with good writing skills … National Center for Education Statistics. U.S. Department of Education. It is a legal requirement and part of staff’s professional duty. Report of the National Work Group on Literacy and Health. http://www.problemgamblingprevention.org/tips/Readability-scores.pdf, Dean, J. ‘The importance of having a value base for Social Work is to guide Social Workers and protect the interest of Services Users.’ (Parrot, 2010:17) As a practising Social Worker it is important to recognise … We use cookies to improve your website experience. You can paste your text into any of the free online readability calculators listed at the end of this article and get an estimate of reading grade level in a few seconds. Everyone communicates something, social workers need to understand how to and how people communicate enabling relationships, gaining understanding of personal circumstances and … McLaughlin, G. H. (1968). Nearly half of … As Michael P. Dentato (author of “Queer Communities (Competency and Positionality)” in the Encyclopedia of Social Work) suggests, social work helps those who don’t have a voice to speak up in … Her practice experience includes medical social work, individual and group counseling with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, program development and administration, and community outreach. The closer they are to the 5th grade reading level, the easier they will be for people with limited literacy skills to comprehend (Doak et al., 1996; National Work Group on Literacy and Health, 1998). http://www.wordscount.info/wc/jsp/clear/analyze_smog.jsp, http://www.readabilityformulas.com/free-readability-calculators.php, http://www.online-utility.org/english/readability_test_and_improve.jsp, http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/healthliteracy/resources/doak-book/, http://www.problemgamblingprevention.org/tips/Readability-scores.pdf, http://www.plainlanguagenetwork.org/plaintrain/index.html, http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/healthliteracy/practice/innovative-actions/index.html, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/etr.html, http://www.cdc.gov/healthmarketing/pdf/Simply_Put_082010.pdf, Client Relationships and Ethical Boundaries for Social Workers in Child Welfare, Transgender Day of Remembrance 2020: What Social Workers Need To Know, What I Wish I Had Known: Burnout and Self-Care in Our Social Work Profession, Fusing Fitness With Mental Health Treatment in Supportive Housing and Related Settings. White, S., & Dillow, S. (2005). As anyone studying public relations knows, online publications, publicly circulated … Too often, the academic writing that earns good grades consists of enough long words and long sentences to fill a specific number of pages. Great gift book for social work graduates! Readable materials should be written no higher than the 8th grade reading level, according to the U.S. Department of Education. I highly respect this article. But can the client understand it? (2003). So, by proper guidance and counseling, the writing abilities of these teens can be channelized in such a way that, they could stand in good stead in the chosen avenue of their lives. If you’re like many social workers, you probably haven’t thought about the readability of the print materials your agency provides to clients. Fancy fonts (including. As a long time part of such an important social institution, she knows how vital individual integrity is to the work … 3099067 (2003). Interestingly, 93% of teens in American schools are fond of writing, when it’s not a part of their school curriculum; rather when it is for themselves. In the modern workplace, though, professionals in every sector need to demonstrate good writing skills. Use short words and short sentences. This is also the time for you to share your thoughts with clients … Poverty, racism, and literacy. You can learn how to make them more readable. When you write for readability, your goal is not to fill pages or to demonstrate how much you know. Like every new skill, it does take some time and effort to change the way you write. Illustrations can make a flyer or brochure more attractive and eye-catching, which may encourage people to pick it up. Although writing skills are important for internal communications, they are just as important externally, if not more so. London: Cassell. Assessing the readability of mental health internet brochures for children and adolescents. Avoid acronyms and jargon. Write in a conversational style. We conclude that this framework will promote writing competence and benefit clients. Small print discourages poor readers. Use at least a 12-point font. No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors. These changes have ethical implications for social work practitioners, as their role in allocating scarce resources becomes more challenging and demands for cost-effectiveness and measurable outcomes for service users and society are increasing. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/healthliteracy/practice/innovative-actions/index.html, Medline Plus. Many people think of evaluation as taking a snapshot of outcomes at the end of a program to prove to a funder that it worked or failed. In J. Your goal is to identify what your audience needs to know and to give them that information clearly, simply, and concisely. Although people who are poor may be more likely to have difficulty with reading, there are many other individuals in this country who are not good readers. We don’t learn about it in school, and there isn’t much research for us to turn to. Journal of Family Practice, 46, 168-176. If you give clients brochures, booklets, and flyers with information they can’t comprehend, they won’t benefit from or be able to use that information. Social work is an important … Social work is a challenging, changing, high-growth profession that puts social workers in a position to make an actual difference in many people’s lives. Social workers write a lot and their writing has a major impact on people's lives. It’s not surprising that social workers are unaware of readability as an issue. Register to receive personalised research and resources by email, Ethical Professional Writing in Social Work and Human Services, /doi/full/10.1080/17496535.2015.1009481?needAccess=true. (1996). Mavrogenes, N., Hanson, E., & Winkley, C. (1977). This does take practice! Journal of Technology in Human Services, 26 (1), 67-74. Separate Need-to-Know Information From Nice-to-Know Information. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott. The research suggests that social workers should be checking their agencies’ print materials for readability. Words are everything. When you learn to write clearly enough for clients with limited literacy skills to understand what you write, you improve the clarity of all of your professional writing. Plain Language Online Training. Lots of print with little white space looks intimidating. It is important to note that it’s not just people who are poor, or those with low educational attainment, who benefit when you offer them readable materials. Social workers write a lot and their writing has a major impact on people's lives. Simply put: A guide for creating easy to understand materials. Report Writing | Guide to Social Work Report Writing: Report writing is the last step in a research study but it is a very significant step because the results or research have very little value if they are not communicated effectively to the right person, at the right time and in the right manner… http://www.cdc.gov/healthmarketing/pdf/Simply_Put_082010.pdf. Ever since I was a young boy I have been interested in helping people who have been less fortunate in life. The lessons you gain from a Master of Social Work … Writing is an important part of life, whether in the workplace or school, as a … The key is to use graphics that are related to the text. The way you format and lay out the text can either help people to read it or discourage them from trying. To learn about our use of cookies and how you can manage your cookie settings, please see our Cookie Policy. Praise and compliments, and even negative feedback, can be used as gas for your social work tank to keep you moving on your career path. Communicating with patients who have limited literacy skills. Her low-literacy fact sheets and brochures have been published by the National Cancer Institute and the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center at West Virginia University. Effective Communication Skills for Social Workers. The purpose is what you want your audience to know or to do after reading it. She all, Kadian McDonald | Client Relationships and Ethical Boundaries for Social Workers in Child Welfare. Too often, social service agency materials contain a lot of nice-to-know information that could be eliminated. When the job at hand involves writing - such as in the case of professional writers, journalistsand other communications professionals - then your literacy skills are clearly going to be important. SMOG Online Readability Calculator. Readability should matter to social workers because many of our clients are poor, and people who are poor are more likely to have limited literacy skills (Corley, 2003; White & Dillow, 2005). The complexity of their writing task arises because they must deal with confidential client information while usually writing for multiple audiences. Writing is necessary for both school and work. First, after reviewing the literature on the importance and challenges of writing well in social work (and having hosted a number of writing workshops for social workers and human services practitioners), we argue that the development of students' writing skills must be framed within the social, political and ethical professional circumstances in which students will be working in the future. Any time your audience includes people with limited literacy skills, it’s critical that you limit the content to what they need to know in order to benefit from or use the information (Doak et al., 1996). Retrieved 2/15/11 from: http://eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED475392.pdf, Doak, C. C., Doak, L. G., & Root, J. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 12 (1), 91. These same people don't hold evaluation in much regard because they … Nearly half of adult welfare recipients have not graduated from high school, and approximately 70% of these individuals have limited literacy skills (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003). The purpose of this article is twofold. Do not use more than one font. Really. By teaching writing skills through the lens of the profession's ethics and values, students will be instilled with a greater understanding of the importance of writing. They’ll give up before they locate or understand need-to-know information, such as: who to call for financial assistance, or when the food pantry is open, or where to find shelter from an abusive partner. You’ll probably have to rewrite more than once to get the reading level below 8th grade, but don’t get discouraged. 5 Howick Place | London | SW1P 1WG. As I learned myself, there’s a side benefit to making that effort. The third international reading symposium (pp. Available at: http://www.readabilityformulas.com/free-readability-calculators.php, Online-Utility. Readability describes how easily people can read and understand printed text (McLaughlin, 1968). The little research that has been done on social service agency materials found them to be written at well above the U.S. Department of Education’s recommended 8th grade level (see King, Winton, & Adkins, 2003; Mavrogenes, Hanson, & Winkley, 1977; Wilson, Wallace, & DeVoe, 2009; Yick, 2008). It does. People who do not read well will not have the patience or the skill to sift through information that’s of no immediate interest or use to them. Detailed note taking ability – The ability to take excellent notes is extremely important as you listen … Combining different fonts will make your text look busy and confusing. Available at: http://www.wordscount.info/wc/jsp/clear/analyze_smog.jsp, ReadabilityFormulas.com. It’s harder to read because it’s hard for the eye to follow. It is a pivotal form of communication in all walks of life. Do not use fancy fonts. In fact, many Americans read four to five grade levels lower than the highest grade they completed in school (Doak, Doak, & Root, 1996). 186-205). Do not use illustrations just to “fancy up” a brochure. The production of written texts is a high-stakes activity in professional social work, playing a central role in all decisions about services and simultaneously used to evaluate social workers’ professional competence. “If … How to write easy-to-read health materials. Standard writing assignments, such as research papers and literature reviews, do not prepare you for the professional writing social workers do in practice. Every day, social workers must communicate with clients to gain information, convey critical information and make important … As an added benefit, these guidelines will make your agency’s print materials easier for everyone to read. National Assessment of Adult Literacy. Caroline Rodgers, social worker, has many years of experience working in the field of social work, as well as espousing the importance of social justice, ethics and human equality. Clear and to the point: Guidelines for using plain language. Recent reviews (Baby P, Serious Case Review processes) highlighted the … Evaluating readability of domestic violence information found on domestic violence state coalitions’ websites. Although that’s very important, there is more to readability than a low reading grade level. Health literacy studies: Assessing and developing health materials. This means resisting the temptation to include every detail you know. ERIC Digest. All rights reserved. Unfortunately, most of us don’t learn about the importance of readability or how to make our writing readable while we’re in school. Dr. Ames is co-author, with Katy FitzGerald, of  Writing Clearly for Clients and Others: A Practitioner’s Guide (Lyceum) and has taught workshops for national, regional, and statewide audiences on how to write for people with limited literacy skills. JTWidget = { code: 'glAP1OUdhrMkdjqCNv9F8svMCzk2oF3O'}; All material published on this website Copyright 1994-2020 White Hat Communications. Use ragged right margins. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Report Writing | Guide to Social Work Report Writing: Report writing is the last step in a research study but it is a very significant step because the results or research have very little value if they are not communicated effectively to the right person, at the right time and in the right manner… Active listening. Key Concepts and Features of the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NCES 2006-471). Natalie Ames, MSW, Ed.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Social Work at North Carolina State University. When I was assigned to write a series of “easy-to-read” fact sheets for people with limited literacy skills, I knew nothing about readability. PMID: 19395839 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]. This means that you probably have clients with a high school diploma or GED who actually read at only a 7th or 8th grade level. Yick, A. Importance of Professional Writing in Social Work When you take a minute to look at how important writing and writing well is to a person’s life, you realize that having the knowledge of professional writing … Retrieved 9/10/10 from: http://nces.ed.gov/naal/. The negative connotation of the word “gay,” was derived from a prevailing idea that being gay … It promotes continuity of care and communication with other agencies. It really does make a difference. Use plenty of subtitles to prepare readers for what to expect. Incorporating the guidelines below is critical if you’re trying to reach people with limited literacy skills. Yet, I have seen all of that information in brochures meant to inform clients about agency services. It does mean that if you read what you’ve written out loud, it should sound pretty close to the way you speak. Use plain language. While you're unlikely to be writing the next great American novel, you will be sending emails, compiling reports and typing memos, meani… People outside your agency won’t understand the abbreviations and “social work speak” you use with your colleagues. Readability should matter to social workers because many of our clients are poor, and people who are poor are more likely to have limited literacy skills (Corley, 2003; White & Dillow, 2005). Marcus Goff Jones, LCSW | Transgender Day of Remembrance 2020: What Social Workers Need To Know, The one constant topic or area of concerns my last 25 years is the lac of good mental health covera, AnnMarie Buswell | What I Wish I Had Known: Burnout and Self-Care in Our Social Work Profession, Seems there are not a lot of sites out there devoted strictly to the symbiotic relationship between, Shawn Bills | Fusing Fitness With Mental Health Treatment in Supportive Housing and Related Settings. Use plenty of white space. Opinions expressed on this site are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the publisher. Including that kind of nice-to-know information is like explaining to someone who wants to heat lunch in an unfamiliar microwave how microwave ovens work. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 20, 423–431. (2008). If you only have access to graphics unrelated to the text, do not use them. It’s easier for poor readers to decipher short words and follow short sentences. It’s easier for poor readers to follow text written in a conversational style. Students searching for Why Writing Skills are More Important Than Ever found the following related articles, links, and information useful. Once I learned how to make my writing readable, it hit me that in many years of social work practice, I had given clients hundreds of pieces of written information without ever considering how easily they could read and understand them. Writing is a key part of the job; social workers frequently write documents such as assessment reports, case notes, letters, emails, and support plans. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/etr.html, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Are state Medicaid application enrollment forms readable? Proposals for British readability measures. All social workers should engage in professional supervision to help encourage and develop critical thinking abilities. Clients do not need to know who the agency’s director is, how many clients the agency assisted last year, when and how the agency was founded, or what the staff members’ educational backgrounds are. In particular, this article focuses on the second element of this model which is concerned with having a sound understanding of the values and principles of ethical professional writing. Social Work, 22, 110-112. The importance of research in a social work framework Social work, often considered a relatively modern profession, has developed through advances in knowledge, social reforms, democratic ideas and … Wilson, J. M.; Wallace, L. S.; & DeVoe, J. E. (2009). Second, we propose a model of ethical professional writing which integrates three essential elements that must conjoin in tandem: reflective mindfulness of the client-centred focus of writing responsibilities; a sound understanding of the values and principles of the social work and human services professions as highlighted in the unifying themes in various codes of ethics; and competence in compositional, rhetorical and technical writing skills. Often, social workers are responsible for procuring and providing services for clients, and their writing skills must be strong to enable the best support possible. Research has verified listening as the most utilized form of communication. Supervision. Writing may not be part of your job description, but in most social work settings, writing is part of the job. Available at: http://www.online-utility.org/english/readability_test_and_improve.jsp, Corley, M. A. The complexity of their writing task arises because they must deal with confidential client information … The starting point for this paper is the view that social work practice is a highly skilled activity and one that calls for an extensive knowledge base and considerable intellectual abilities. If you’ve forgotten the difference between active and passive voice, look it up. If you use images of people, be sure they look like the people you’re trying to reach and that they’re culturally appropriate. http://www.plainlanguagenetwork.org/plaintrain/index.html, Harvard School of Public Health. Available free at Harvard University School of Public Health: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/healthliteracy/resources/doak-book/. Registered in England & Wales No. Living in a area which is affected by poverty, drugs, high crime rates and bad education has motivated me to become a social worker … According to the Administration for Children and Families, clinical supervision not only encourages critical thinking, it also helps you develop other important social work skills, such as maintaining positive social work … I speak from experience. (1998). This means that social work students must achieve more than the basics of technical writing skills. Writing also helps the writer express ideas, beliefs and personality. Words give the world … I have been treating transgender people 2012. It is a tool to help identify themes and challenges in a person’s life… Justified text (i.e., text with even right margins) has variable spacing between letters and words. Do not use ALL CAPS. Teaching Patients with Low Literacy Skills (2nd ed.). The complexity of their writing task arises because they must deal with confidential client information while usually writing for multiple audiences… By closing this message, you are consenting to our use of cookies. Here’s the good news if the materials your agency gives to clients are in need of improvement. What Is Readability and Why Should It Matter to Social Workers? For text you don’t have in electronic format, you can use the SMOG (Simple Measure of Gobbledygook) formula to hand-calculate reading level. This doesn’t mean using slang. You may think that lowering the reading grade level is all it takes to make text easy to read. It is also difficult for many older individuals to see. National Work Group on Literacy and Health. You’ll find instructions at http://www.readabilityformulas.com/smog-readability-formula.php. It … Active voice is more direct and uses fewer words than passive voice. Social workers serve as a link between clients and community resources, providing vital human services that assist underserved populations. Writing may be a fundamental skill, but it is one that students and practitioners cannot afford to take for granted. Their block shapes are more difficult to decipher than lower case letters. Use active voice. U. S. Department of Education. (2003). All they need to know to cook their lunch is which button to push. The first step is to review your agency’s existing materials and answer two basic questions about each piece: The target audience is the people you’re trying to reach—clients, prospective volunteers, the general public, other professionals, and so forth.

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