In today’s world of texting and Twitter, we often believe that the less we write, the better and that grammar and spelling are secondary to “short and sweet.” But whatever business or career you are in, writing is still important.
A recent statistic cited that more than two-thirds of salaried jobs require a significant amount of written communication, and top organizations spend more than $3 billion per year on training to bring employee writing ability up to a baseline standard.
Good writing is not just for English majors
Think about your typical workday. How often do you use written communication? Here are just a few tasks that might sound familiar:
- Replying to an email from your boss
- Preparing a report for your department meeting
- Drafting an important client email
- Writing copy for a marketing brochure
- Creating new content for your company website
What you write often forms the first impression people have of you or your brand, either personal or professional. What if your email to that important client has errors or is long-winded and confusing? The client might be wonder whether you can understand her needs when you have trouble expressing your own.
If your website copy fails to tell visitors who you are and what your company does, prospective clients will lose interest and move on.
According to Ann Handley, content and marketing guru and author of the Wall Street Journal Bestseller Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, there are those who think they can write and those who think they can’t. “The truth is, most of us fall somewhere in the middle. We are all capable of producing good writing. Or, at least, better writing,” she says.
Every piece of writing – whether it’s a report, blog post or even a simple email – deserves the same relative attention and care as a short story or novel. Consider these important characteristics:
- Focus and clarity. Make sure your writing is clear, makes sense and has a purpose.
- Organization.Your writing should not only be clear, but also presented logically for better flow.
- Voice. Your unique personality should make your writing different than anyone else’s; make sure your voice is consistent and identifiable.
- Language. Choose your words carefully and craft your sentences with care.
- Grammar. If you’ve forgotten everything you learned in your high school or college English class, consult the many resources available online to reacquaint you with punctuation and grammar.
- Credibility. Do your research and make sure your facts are accurate.
- Compelling. Give your reader a reason to react, respond or take action.
- Originality. Put a new spin on an old subject; the more original you can be, the more readers will pay attention.
How do you improve your writing?
Practice makes perfect. Just like anything else in life, if you want to get better… practice. Write every chance you get. If it seems daunting at first, start by writing about things you like or that are important to you. Simple, private journaling is a great place to start.
Read your writing out loud. Reading your work out loud is a great way to edit for logical flow, to catch missing words, and to get an idea of how your audience might experience your writing.
Ask for feedback. Ask a trusted co-worker or friend to review your writing. Look for someone who can give honest and constructive feedback on whether or not something sounds confusing or just doesn’t sound right. You could also hire a professional editor, proofreader or (if you really don’t enjoy writing) a writer.
Writing deserves to be good
Writing is communication. In business, poor communication leads to confusion, bad decisions and misdirected teams. In these days of micro-blogging, texting and the rush to blast through a never-ending tide of email, we tend to forget the importance of good writing. Our responses are brief and, often, communicate a different meaning than intended.
Practice the art of writing and spend a few extra minutes to check for clarity, purpose, flow, grammar and spelling. These steps will become second nature and become a good habit… for good writing.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. What qualifies as “good writing” to you? Do you have any particular pet peeves when it comes to bad writing? Please share your comments below.