10 Secrets For Everyday Writing Success
During my 25-year career in a variety of professionalpositions in both the private and public sectors I have written literally thousands of letters and memos andhundreds of reports. If I had to boil-down everythingI've learned about practical day-to-day writing for bothpersonal and business purposes into 10 key points, thiswould be my "top 10 list".
1. Preparation Is the Key
Do all of your research first, before you start to write.Even a letter normally requires some minor research suchas making some phone calls or reviewing a file. It's alsovery important to prepare yourself mentally before writing.So, don't sit down to write too soon. Mull it over fora while, sometimes a day or two, sometimes an hour or two,depending on the complexity of the job at hand. It'samazing how the sub-conscious mind will work on the problem"behind the scenes" and when you finally do start writing,it will flow.
2. Always Use a Sample
For me, this is critical. No matter what I write, it helpstremendously if I have some visual stimulation. If I'mwriting a letter I post a copy of a similar letter, or theone I'm responding to, somewhere in my direct line-of-sight.It helps me focus and keeps my mind on the subject at hand,minimizing the tendency for my mind to wander. No matterwhat it is, I always make a point to find some previouswork or a sample of work similar to what I'm doing. Itreally stimulates the creative writing process andincreases productivity significantly.
3. Shorter Is Always Better
Whether you're writing a report or a letter, look for waysto cut it down in length. Concentrate on conveying theessential message. If something you've written does notenhance the core message, or doesn't add value, considercutting it. These days, you have to be "short and to thepoint" to get your message read.
4. Use Concise and Appropriate Language
Your letter or report should use simple straightforwardlanguage, for clarity and precision. Use short sentencesand don't let paragraphs exceed three or four sentences.As much as possible, use language and terminology familiarto the intended recipient. Do not use technical terms andacronyms without explaining them, unless you are certainthat the addressee is familiar with them.
5. "Be" Your Addressee
A key technique to use when writing anything is to clearly"visualize" your audience. As you write, try to imaginein your mind's eye the specific person(s) to whom yourwritten product is directed. I often imagine that I amsitting across the boardroom table from my addressee,trying to explain my points in person. Make an effort tosee the situation from the other person's perspective.What would you be looking to see if you were therecipient of the letter or report?
6. Do the Outline First
Even if it's a one-page letter, it doesn't hurt to jotdown a few quick notes on the main points that you want tocover. This process forces you to think logically aboutexactly what you want to cover and it helps you decide inwhich order you will approach your subject. For a letterthis is helpful. For a report, this is absolutely essential.In fact, I believe that you should force yourself to gothrough the entire thinking process that is required todevelop a complete draft Table of Contents, before youstart to write any report.
7. Write and Then Rewrite
No matter how much preparation I do, I always find that Ican improve on the first draft. That's partly because whenI'm writing that first version, my main focus is to getthe essence of my thoughts down on paper. At that stageI don't worry about perfect phrasing, grammar or logic.My main mission the first time through is to make surethat I capture the critical words and phrases that formthe core meaning of what I want to communicate.
8. Format Is Important
Whatever you are writing, make sure it looks professional.This is where proper formatting comes in. Your credibility,and/or that of your organization, is on the line, withyour report or letter serving as your representative. Ifit is not professionally formatted, it will reflectnegatively on you, even if the content is good and it iswell-written. Rightly or wrongly, the value of your workwill diminish in people's eyes if the formatting of yourdocument is shoddy or amateurish looking.
9. Read It Out Loud
Some people who haven't tried it may laugh when they readthis, but it really works. At any point during the drafting process, but definitely at the draft final stage,read your report or letter to yourself "out loud". It'samazing what one picks up when they actually "hear" theirwords as if they were being spoken to them as theaddressee. I find this helps me the most in picking upawkward phrasing and unnecessary repetition of words orterms.
10. Check Spelling and Grammar
Last, but far from least, make sure you double check thespelling and grammar in your document. These days, withspell-checkers built into word processing programs there'sreally no excuse not to do this. Once again your documentis a direct reflection of you and/or your organization.If it is riddled with spelling mistakes and obviousgrammatical errors, it will appear unprofessional and yourcredibility will suffer. Watch out for the words thatsound the same but have completely different meanings thata spell-checker won't pick up. Words such as "four" and"fore", for example. Your final read-through out loudshould catch any of these.
Whether you're writing a letter, a memorandum, a reportor an essay, follow the above tips and you won't go wrong.
For over 20,000 words and 89 pages of detailed writing-help tips, tricks and pointers similar to the above,make sure you get your FR*E copy of my e-book, "WritingSuccess Secrets - Practical Tips and Tricks For EverydayWriting" by going to the following link:
© 2005 by Shaun Fawcett
Shaun Fawcett, is webmaster of the popular writing help siteWritingHelp-Central.com. He is also the author of severalbest selling "writing toolkit" eBooks. All of his eBooks andhis internationally acclaimed f-r-e-e course, "Tips and TricksFor Writing Success" are available at his writing tools site:http://www.writinghelptools.com
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