Good writing is essential for success in the workplace. Fortunately, clear and powerful writing is a skill that can be learned. While it will take some effort and time, there are simple things you can start doing today that will significantly improve your writing.
1. Brush up on your grammar and spelling
Did you hate grammar in elementary school? Too bad! No matter how amazing your ideas are, people will not take your writing seriously if you have poor spelling, or lack a basic grasp of English grammar. This undermines your credibility as an authority on the subject and also takes the reader’s attention away from your message. In this age of spell-check, there is simply no excuse for shoddy grammar.
2. Start with an outline
An outline is the foundation of a successful piece. Keep it simple. First, set up your structure. Next, list the main points you need to address. Then put everything in the right order. Now fill in the prose, which will be a lot easier with your well-defined outline.
If what you are writing is longer than a page, keep some signposts in the finished product. Chapters, headings and lists help the reader – and the writer – stay focused.
3. Copy what you like
Don’t plagiarize, but do emulate the writers you like to read. Identify what you like about their writing styles, and adopt it into your own.
4. Use facts to strengthen your arguments
Statistics make your writing more powerful. Examples add colour and help readers connect to the piece. Always use facts responsibly. Use them honestly, without misrepresenting what they mean in context. And double-check all facts before submitting any work. Incorrect or misrepresented facts are a sure way to lose credibility.
5. Shorter is better
People are impatient, so get to the point! Readers will quickly lose interest if you keep circling. Eliminate the “fluff,” which is anything that does not directly contribute to your main point. If in doubt, cut it out. Then try reading it again; chances are that the fluff-free version is clearer and more interesting.
Keep your sentences and paragraphs short, and avoid repetition.
6. Avoid industry jargon
Insider language, such as legalese or MBA-speak, can be tempting to use. While it makes the writer feel professional, it makes you sound pretentious. Worse, it impresses no one: outsiders are confused, and insiders are either mildly annoyed on don’t care. Your writing should strive to be clear; industry jargon often has the opposite effect, especially if the piece is for public consumption. Write like your audience is an intelligent amateur. If the context absolutely requires a jargon term, define it.
7. Multiple drafts are a must
Your first draft is to get your ideas down. Once you have that, leave it for a bit. Come back with fresh eyes, and re-work it.
8. The importance of a good editor
You need an editor who will go through your work with a fine-toothed comb. Examining every paragraph, every phrase, and every word, they will cover your page in red ink, demand endless changes, and delete superfluous sentences. This editor is you. When you write, expect half of your time to be spent revising. This is normal.
Once you have done your own round of edits, get someone else to read it. Two sets of eyes are better than one, and they will be able to review it dispassionately and offer further improvements. Be a good student by welcoming constructive criticism; after all, you are looking to improve.
9. Read it aloud
Reading aloud helps you spot awkward phrasing that you might gloss over when reading in your head.
10. Discipline trumps natural talent
You need to work on it. There is simply no substitute for putting in the time. Believe me, I tried. Write lots, and read more, especially immersing yourself in the type of writing you want to do. If you want to write a blog, find several blogs to start reading.
Please be advised that the information in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice on any subject matter. As with all legal issues, we recommend you consult your lawyer. Accordingly, ZSA Legal Recruitment Limited will bear no liability to the reader, in any form. There are no representations or warranties made as to the accuracy or substantive adequacy of any information provided in this article.