In today’s world, being able to write well is of vital importance, whatever your industry. You could be a computer programmer, a small business owner, an administrator … whatever your job, it’s likely to involve a lot of words.
Just think of the things you might write in a typical working day:
- Emails to clients
- Internal memos or reports for colleagues
- Instructions for a subordinate
- A presentation for a seminar
- Notes or action points from a meeting
- New content for your company’s website
I’m sure you could extend the list. The fact is, text is the currency of the web: although video and audio content is slowly becoming more popular, text has massive advantages (like being searchable, very easy to produce and edit, easy to scan, and quick to download).
So why is it so important that every time you put fingers to keyboard, you write well?
Your Writing Must Give a Good First Impression
In many situations, the first contact someone will have with you is through an email or through reading a website.
- You’re applying for a job, with a cover letter and CV
- You’re replying to an email from a prospective customer
- A client is reading your website
- A colleague passes on the email address of someone they want you to contact
There are also plenty of non-work contexts where this applies too, such as:
- You need to write a letter of complaint, and want to be taken seriously
- You’re creating a profile on a dating site
- You’re writing content for a community or hobby website
Again, these lists could go on and on. In all these cases, the quality of your writing and the way you express yourself is going to form a strong impression on the reader. You want that impression to be good!
Poor Writing Won’t Be Read
How many times have you skimmed blog posts, ignored pages of jargon on a company site, or even stopped reading as soon as you saw a badly-worded or confusing headline?
It’s probably not news to you that we live in a world saturated with information. If your emails are long-winded and rambling, if your blog posts are vague and ungrammatical, or if your website is full of corporate jargon, people simply won’t read it.
You’re Using Social Media – And You Can Be Found
I’d be willing to bet that you have some sort of online profile or presence. That might be on LinkedIn, for business; it might be a Facebook account, a Twitter stream, or even your own blog. It could be posts on a public message board.
If you’ve never tried this before, give it a go: type your full name, in quotes, into Google. What comes up? (If you have a common name, you might try adding your profession or location.) Would the results impress a prospective client or employer? Bear in mind that almost anything you write online can be found by people searching for you. Again, you want to give them a good impression with well-written content – even if that’s just your bio on LinkedIn.
So, if you know that your writing isn’t your strongest point, what can you do to improve?
Step One: Practice!
If you ever learned to play a musical instrument as a child, you were probably encouraged to practice regularly. Writing is no different: the more you write, the more confident you’ll become. If you need a primer on grammar or if you need to revisit some of the rules, here are 50 writing tools that can help and here are another 40+ tips on punctuation.
For those who aren’t natural writers, it can seem like a chore to sit down and put words on the screen. Try spending just five or ten minutes each evening writing about something that interests you. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your use of language: no-one needs to see this except you.
Step Two: Read It Aloud
One of the most powerful ways to “hear” any flaws in your writing is to read it aloud. If you’re someone who’s a fluent speaker but who struggles a bit with writing, this is a great way to make the most of the way you prefer to communicate. Problems which your eye skims over on the page can become very obvious when you hear them.
When you read aloud, you’re also much more likely to notice convoluted, overlong sentences – they’ll be the ones where you run out of breath!
Step Three: Get Feedback
When you have an important piece of writing that needs to be right, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. That could be as informal as asking a colleague or friend to read it over – ask them to let you know if it was confusing at all, or whether any of the sentences were hard to follow. It’s also worth asking them to look out for “clunky” words that just don’t sound right.
In some cases, you might want to consider hiring a professional writer or editor to look over what you’ve written.
Do you find writing a struggle, in your job or business? Have you got any tips to share?