Choosing Your Way With Words

Aptitudes and Writing Style

When clients express a desire to write, and ask us whether they have aptitudes for writing, we cannot give a black-and-white answer. We can identify no single "writing aptitude" that all successful writers are blessed with, and there is certainly no pattern of abilities that says a person cannot write. If you are thinking of being a writer, however, or making writing a part of your work, your pattern of aptitudes can help point the way toward the kinds of writing you might enjoy most. Remember, too, that the way we communicate is through words, and the more words we know, the more succinctly we can express our ideas in writing and speech. Whereas aptitudes are inherited, vocabulary and knowledge is acquired, and we can always learn new subjects and the vocabulary that goes along with the new information. The following guide is based partly on data from studies of journalists and editors, and partly on informed speculation based on our understanding of different kinds of writing as well as discussions with our clients who have writing experience.

Creative Writing

Ideaphoria, the ability to produce ideas quickly, is probably the most useful trait for any writing that requires imagination, such as fiction or motivational writing. Writers with ideaphoria may have such a vortex of ideas spinning through their heads that they will need the most expansive and unrestricted outlet, and imaginative writing most often provides this. Those with ideaphoria as a key trait might consider writing feature articles, novels, plays, publicity, advertising copy, speeches, travel articles, and children's books.

Critical Writing

People who score low in ideaphoria and high in inductive reasoning may find the above kinds of writing more difficult. They are likely to pick apart, criticize, and diagnose problems in a short story or feature article so thoroughly that, after hours of work, they may have gotten no further than the first paragraph.

What should high-inductive writers do? They might prefer to look for the kinds of writing where a sharp critical ability is at the center of the work itself, as in writing legal opinions, political commentary, investigative reporting, essays, editorials, and literary or arts criticism.

Subjective Personality and Writing

Some kinds of writing might be more appropriate for people who score subjective in personality, people who may prefer work that does not require contact with clients, or depend heavily on working with others. This trait might be useful to novelists, playwrights, essayists, and others who are likely to do their best work without the intervention of others. Subjectivity might also be of use to college professors acquiring the specialization needed in writing about developments in their field, or to entrepreneurs writing from experience about the individualist's role in American business.

Objective Personality and Writing

People who score objective rather than subjective in personality might sometimes find it difficult to combine a tendency to be a team-player with the solitary work of writing. We suggest areas of journalism, business communications, or public relations that include interviewing, collaborating with other writers and with editors, and covering a variety of topics at once. An objective personality could be an asset in publicity and advertising, where one's writing is likely to be part of a team effort.

Technical and Science Writing

Technical writing generally requires an ability to make technological or scientific information understandable to others. Structural visualization can be of help in understanding mechanical and scientific concepts, and analytical reasoning could aid in organizing information so that it will make sense to others. Some possibilities include writing manuals for industry or for technological consumer products. Ideaphoria may be especially important in popular writing about science, to make potentially confusing or obscure facts relevant to the general public. Developing science education materials could call for ideaphoria to make them appealing to students. Number memory and graphoria could be assets in any writing that calls for accurate presentation of statistical data.

Editing and Factual Writing

Analytical reasoning is useful in organizing any kind of writing, but might also lead to an urge to be an editor. This ability to order or arrange information and organize concepts helps the writer to make logical connections from paragraph to paragraph or from chapter to chapter, while keeping copy organized and to the point. Factual writing, such as business memos, how-to guides, training materials, and research reports, could call for the same kind of organizational talent.

Writing for Television, Film, Theater, Speech or Radio

Auditory traits (tonal and rhythm memory, pitch discrimination) might lead to writing in sound-related areas of broadcasting and entertainment. Playwrights, if they have structural visualization, might use this aptitude to think about how characters will move across a stage, and how stage effects and props will work together. The fast-paced, imaginative style of writing for daily or weekly TV programs might be well-suited to high ideaphoria. Memory for design and observation talents may give a writer a greater appreciation of the visual effects involved in these fields.

Whatever your reason for writing, we encourage you to pursue it as a hobby or as a career, after using your aptitude scores to help define the kinds of writing that will be most natural for you.

by Mike Padilla, formerly on staff in the San Francisco office, now a published author.