How can I improve my business writing skills?
by Jacquie Wise
How can I improve my business writing skills on an ongoing basis?
Developing any skill depends on slow, steady progress, step by step.
Developing good writing skills is no different. Here are ten things you can do, on an ongoing basis, to improve your ability to write clearly, concisely and convincingly.
1 The key to writing well is to write it badly first, then know how to edit.
Get someone else to read what you’ve written and tell you what they’ve understood. That could be very revealing!
Each time you write, improve on one little thing, be it your spelling, vocabulary or logical flow.
2 Proofread in various ways. Once you’ve checked your document for sense and consistency of style, proofread it for spelling mistakes and typographical errors. Read it backwards to pick up those tiny errors that tend to slip through.
3 Don’t rely on your spell-checker to check spelling, as it will miss words used in a different context, for instance, ‘there’ and ‘their’. Both spelt correctly, but may be wrong depending on the context.
4 Build a solid working vocabulary which will enable you to say clearly what you mean with the least amount of words and waffle.
Start a large index book in which to note words and phrases with examples of how they may be used. Do look them up in a dictionary to check if they’re being used correctly before you copy them! Use Roget’s Thesaurus of Synonyms and Antonyms to expand the range of words at your disposal. (Roget’s is the best).
The Macquarie dictionary is the Australian one. Oxford is English and Webster’s is American. As far as I know, Collin’s is somewhere in between.
5 Write as if speaking to your reader: Imagine what you would say to the person and write that first, then edit for grammatical accuracy. Read what you’ve written aloud. If you trip over your words, so will your reader.
6 Read as much as possible: Read fine literature, read business journals or newspapers, read reports. Notice where you stumble, notice what flows well or makes an impact on you as the reader.
Examples of badly written documents can be just as useful as models of mistakes to avoid.
7 Get feedback: Ask a good writer to mentor you and edit your work, at least occasionally. Choose someone who can explain the reasons for the changes they recommend, or employ a tutor or coach, on occasion. Keep an ongoing list of questions to ask when you have access to your mentor.
8 Collect templates: There may even be some on line to suit your needs. You’ll find models or standards for reports, letters, forms and all kinds of useful information that you use on a regular basis.
If you write regular progress reports, for example, you could formulate your own templates or checklists. You can just fill in the blanks. They provide a framework for the next time you need to write a similar document.
9 Improve your grammar: The reality is, if you’ve never been taught the ins and outs of grammar, you’ll never be able to judge parts of a sentence that may be in the wrong place, or how punctuation changes meaning or how you can be long winded by using the passive voice. Do you know what the passive voice is? Time to find out! Find a writing skills course that includes grammar, or attend a course for English as a Second Language, even if English is your first language.
10 Build your own library of essential reference books. There are many books available on grammar essentials and style, or on specifics such as writing technical reports. You’ll find a few recommendations on the writing skills resources page of my website…….
If you would like some one on one personal assistance with your business writing or grammar, contact me to arrange a convenient time.
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