Six Ways to Improve Your Writing 

    Leadership 

    Like most of us, you thought the days of being graded on your writing were over when you graduated from college. While you may no longer receive a grade in the traditional sense, the way you communicate through the written word plays a huge influence in the way your firm or company recognizes your accomplishments.

    After all, if your writing is ineffective, how can people understand your point and how can you get ahead? Sure, not everyone is going to be the next Stephen King or even Stephen Covey, but there are some basic techniques you can use to make you a better writer.

    1. Good writers get organized. While it sounds a bit like Freshman composition, take a few minutes to organize your thoughts and define what you’re trying to do. This will help you prioritize your points. Ask yourself who you are writing for, why you are writing, and what you want your reader to gain. Are you sharing the findings of an audit? Are you writing a bread & butter networking email? Convincing your manager to purchase a new software product? The better organized you are with your thoughts, the more clear and persuasive your content, tone, and language will be in the finished piece.
    2. Good writers mimic reporters. There is basic information everyone wants to know: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Answering these questions prevents you from leaving out critical information. You may not need to include answers to each of these questions, but at least you’ve deliberately determined that. Omission should be a plan, not a mistake, in good writing.
    3. Good writers write simply. If your writing blacks out the scorecard on “buzzword bingo” with words like “strategize,” “value-added solutions,” “core competencies,” and “change management,” you’re doing yourself and your readers a real disservice. Trying to impress people with big words and complex sentences doesn’t work. Using jargon and corporate-speak leaves people scratching their heads … or worse, yawning. Break each sentence down to one idea. Use the active voice (see #5 below) and active verbs, and cut the adjectives.
    4. Good writers are concise. Just like the bore at the party who goes on and on, long sentences lose your reader’s interest and miss your point. Yet, writing “shorter” takes time. As Mark Twain said, “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

      Use the following ideas to make your writing shorter:
      • Look over your first draft with a keen eye.
      • Take out anything that doesn’t add to the meaning of the piece, even if it’s the most elegant sentence you’ve even written.
      • Take out extra words; frequently which and that can be deleted without changing the meaning of the sentence.
      • Write long enough to make your point, and then stop. Review to make sure you have made your point.
      • Get rid of redundancies. In fact, try cutting 25 to 50% of what you’ve written; you may not be able to always cut that much, but if you go through the exercise of trying to cut copy, you’ll easily spot your repetitions and extraneous copy.
    5. Good writers use active voice. Passive voice produces weak, unconvincing writing. Avoid sentences like “mistakes were made” and instead use “I made a mistake.” Work hard to avoid the “to be” verbs, (is, are, am, was, were). Find strong verbs to keep your writing active and interesting.
    6. Good writers read their work aloud. Reading out loud helps you to identify clunky, awkward passages and fix them. Take a few minutes to read your writing aloud can put the final polish on an important report or email.

     

    Better writing equals better communication. From emails to business reports, take the time to make yours better. Not only will you be more clearly understood; you will surely be recognized for your efforts and be admired by others.




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