Writer or Author

Writers plan and write literary or other written work for publication or performance. Writers may create original pieces of written work that can take the form of poetry, novels, short stories, biographies, plays, or film, radio and television scripts. Skilled writers use language as a tool to express their ideas in a way which  informs, persuades and entertains people.

Writers choose themes or subjects for written work, conduct research into the subject, assemble background material and obtain other necessary data. They plan and organise material and write the work. They revise or edit the work, ensuring coherence of style, proper development of theme, plot and characterisation, and correct referencing. They need to set out their original manuscripts so that they are clear and legible, that is, either typed or word-processed, before submitting their work to a publisher.

Writers often work collaboratively with visual or performance artists and other specialists such as scriptwriters, software developers, graphic designers and illustrators, to create multimedia works.

Writers may specialise in:

  • fiction writing
  • blogging or vlogging
  • general interest non-fiction
  • journalism
  • children’s books
  • educational textbook writing
  • historical writing and transferring oral histories into written form
  • speech writing
  • corporate or training videos
  • technical writing
  • documentation preparation
  • freelance editorial services
  • helping others to prepare their manuscripts for publication
  • scriptwriting or playwriting
  • documentary writing
  • humour or comedy writing
  • copywriting
  • editing text into accessible ‘plain English’ form
  • in writing texts for musical works.

Work may be commissioned by: a book or magazine publisher, a theatre, film or television production company, radio or television station or network or a company or independent website or blog. Alternatively, work may be sold by the writers themselves or by their literary agents. Writers today have opportunity to create blogs and work on social media content for themselves as well as to freelance their skills to other other organisations and individuals.

Social media and blog writing requires short but punchy articles but which are powerful and convincing at the same time. 

In the business environment, writers can work as communication specialists. They may design training seminars or packages, facilitate in-workplace discussions, identify problems in documentation and conduct communication audits.

Those interested in writing should consider related occupations until they are able to establish themselves as writers. These may include journalism, editing, teaching and advertising. New technologies have increased the expectation that writers will have multimedia skills and will work on personal computers, submitting their work on disk

Personal Requirements

  • observant and inquisitive approach to people and their environment
  • ability to think and write creatively and clearly
  • excellent understanding of the English language, particularly grammar and spelling
  • concentration, perseverance and dedication
  • good written and spoken language ability
  • good general knowledge
  • initiative and resourcefulness
  • good memory and eye for detail

How to Enter

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Subjects related to your field of interest
Recommended subjects: Subjects complementary to your field of interest

What to Study

Although it is not essential to train to become a writer, further qualifications can make entry into this field more accessible.

Degree: BA with suitable majors, such as languages, - UJ, UZ, UKZN, US, UNISA, Communication - UFH, UFS, UZ, NWU, Monash, and Journalism - UJ, NWU, US, UZ, UFS, Wits, RU, UFH
Diploma: N.Dip: Journalism - CPUT, TUT, UJ, DUT

Some publications prefer a university degree in languages, communication, or journalism together with relevant experience in newspaper or magazine publishing.


Writers are usually self-employed or work under contract. Business writers may be employed by government departments and private businesses. Technical writers are usually employed under contract to publishers.

  • newspaper firms
  • magazine firms
  • book publishing firms
  • educational institutions, as teacher or lecturer
  • self-employment, with enough experience and capital, can open own publishing business

Further Information

The Writers' Guild of South Africa
P.O. Box 1330, Fontainebleau, 2032
Tel: 065 832 9016

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation work in a newspaper office
  • practice your writing skills
  • help to prepare a newsletter for your school club or youth organisation.
  • speak to writers and authors about this wor

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations


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