Think about this:
What is the primary means of communication in our society? Let me help -- back during the days of the Greeks and Romans information was passed orally; people spoke to one another. News was shared by a man who stood in the middle of the town square and spoke it aloud so all could hear. Although the Greeks and Romans both had alphabets and writing as a means of communication, the average person could not read or write, and definitely could not afford the high cost of books. Thus, we had a culture of oral communication, in which news and information was spread via the spoken word.
In 1440 AD, a fellow named Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press and for the first time brought written language into lives of the common people. Why? Because, by hand, the average scribe can handwrite just a few pages a day but the Gutenberg printing press can produce upwards of 3600 pages in a day. (Brownie points to the person who knows what book Gutenberg printed first.) The Gutenberg printing press launched a revolution in how we communicate and hearkened the age of the -- can you guess? -- Written word.
Let's skip ahead. At the end of the 19th century, around 1890, there were two major inventions that gave rise to our next communication era. In March of 1876, Alexander Graham Bell transmitted the first spoken words across wires creating the first bi-directional telephone. Most people wouldn't have a telephone in their homes for another twenty or thirty years, but we were clearly on that path.
At the same time a second group of inventors was working on what would turn out to be an even more revolutionary idea: wireless communication or -- the radio. Radio schmadio you say? But wait! The radio allowed those who couldn't read, and that was still a lot of people in the early 1900s, access to news and entertainment. And what's more, that news was immediate. It takes time to print a newspaper even if you get the information immediately. You could sometimes get breaking news into an afternoon edition but more often the news would be twenty-four hours old by the time it showed up in print. With radio, news could be delivered immediately into the homes of most Americans.
And as time went on, and inventions got smaller, faster, and more efficient, our dependence on these communication machines grew and grew. Soon everyone was watching the evening news on television and talking to their friends and family over the telephone, thus ushering in a return to an age of oral communication.
That brings us to today. How do you get most of your news and information? How do you do most of your communicating? Many of us still listen to the radio; most of us still watch TV but if we want to know the most up-to-date, breaking news, where do we go? THE INTERNET! And what are we doing to gather that information? We're reading. And we're writing.
More and more people indicate that they're primary means of information is computer/internet-based. That means that more and more people exchange information, once again, in written form. So, when you find yourself wondering why you're in this class or what on Earth good writing has to do with you -- think about the last time you had to communicate something to your boss or to your family. Most often, you did that in writing. And that's why it's important to be able to write clearly and well.