Have you ever wondered why some people can make millions writing books, and others
cant complete a simple business letter worth reading? Sure, natural talent
probably accounts for some of their writing success. But even the best-selling
authors achieve their level of success by devoting serious time and effort to
perfecting their craft.
As a busy professional, youre probably more interested in finishing that e-mail than reaching the best-seller list. And while your business requires plenty of communication, you probably dont have time to practice and perfect your writing skills.
Still, that doesnt mean you cant improve. By following these five guidelines, you can make your writing more effective.
1. Keep It Simple
Make your promotional copy, letters and emails more reader-friendly; organize your ideas in a simple, logical format. You dont have to outline every point you want to make, but spend a few minutes jotting down your ideas and planning the most effective order to present them. Some people like mind maps, others prefer lists. Any format is fine, as long as it works for you.
Once you have your ideas down, you can organize them.
Open your piece by capturing your readers attention. Answer the question, What is this about? If youre introducing prospects to a new product, tell them that. If youre writing to tell them about the new business youre excited about, get right to the point. Focus on your readers perspective, avoid long narrative beginnings that might lose their interest.
Then use the middle (or body) of your piece to identify your main points. Depending on the purpose of your piece, order your points by priority or chronologically.
Finally, end your piece on a positive note.
2. Dont Think Too Much!
Taking your time and planning every word wont actually improve your writing. In fact, quickening your pace has a number of benefits, especially in the first draft.
First, writing fast captures your natural voice and personality in every sentence. That means your words will sound like you, which is important in making your message effective.
Speeding it up will also help alleviate your fear of making mistakes. If you continuously second-guess your sentence structures, word choices and grammar, youll never finish your first paragraph. Thats what editing and revising are for.
First draft?! Yes, your first draftget used to this idea! Every writer knows the importance of going back over your work to eliminate errors and revise your words. And with business writing, you risk losing credibility and professionalism if you make mistakes.
You want your readers to understand the message youre putting on paper, so make sure you can understand it yourself! Even the most experienced writers know if you want to create decent work, the editing phase is crucial.
3. Write Less
By write less I dont mean write less oftenI mean write fewer words. Shakespeare once said, Brevity is the soul of wit. (And if anyone should know, it would be him!) What exactly did he mean? Simple: tighten up your language: leave out every word that doesnt add meaning to your message. Apply the famous rule from Strunk and Whites Elements of Style: Omit needless words!
If you want your message to come across on paper the same way it sounds in your head, then eliminate all the awkward, wordy phrases that dont make your message any more meaningful. For example, replace due to the fact that with because. Substitute a simple if for wordy in the event that. (And delete any in my opinionyour reader already knows this is your opinion!) Such simple changes will make your message clear, less verbose and more professional.
4. Dont Hold Back
Whatever it is youre writing, you obviously have a reason for doing it. Maybe you want to tell your friend about your new business, or share the benefits of a new product with a prospect. Whatever your reason, make it clear to your readers. Otherwise, they wont read past your first sentence.
Be direct; use strong verbs and make powerful points. If youre trying to sell your services, tell your readers how youre different from the competition. If youre looking for support, tell your readers how they can help; dont make them figure out what you want. Tell your readers why they need to read your piece, whats in it for them, and what action you want them to take.
5. Take a Break
Depending on the urgency of the project, give yourself a break from every piece you write. For example, write your rough draft in the morning, then reread and revise after lunch.
For shorter pieces, the best time to take a break is after you complete the first draft. When writing longer pieces, break after completing each section.
This allows you to return to the piece with fresh perspective and objectivity. Youll more readily see errors, gaps in information and organizational challenges after taking some time away from it. Even if youre on a deadline and can spare only ten minutes, go take a walk! Your writing will be better for it.
Better Writing in the Future
There you go: five steps to effective writing. 1) Organize your message into a simple, logical format. 2) Dont stress over every word: write freely and quickly through your first draft. 3) Eliminate wordy phrases to keep your message concise, and 4) tell your readers exactly what you want them to gain from every piece you write. Finally, 5) take a break from your work so you can come back to it with a fresh perspective.
Improving your business writing doesnt have to be difficult. When you use these five easy methods for better writing, your work will be more effectiveand youll see big results from little effort.
MELINDA COPP is an Editorial Specialist for
Cameo Publications, an editorial and publishing services
and consulting firm for professional speakers and