Tips for becoming a better writer
After 22 years in business, I’ve learned that writing is one of my biggest business assets. As a private investigator, my findings mean nothing if I can’t explain them to my clients clearly and succinctly. I blog and write articles to learn and to share what I’m learning with colleagues.
For some reason, though, at an early age I decided I couldn’t write. I thought writing was a gift only a chosen few could master. In college, I even majored in Math to avoid writing research papers. Then came grad school, volunteer work, and eventually my business. All required a lot of writing. My first client project involved lots of research and–you guessed it–writing. I was terrible at it for a while, and then I got better.
Writing clearly and succinctly is a skill we all need in the business world, yet I get pushback from those I mentor. I see sloppy client reports from people who’ve been in business a long time and emails that lack clarity and brevity.
The ability to use the written word to share information is simply not an option, though. What can you do to improve your writing? Here are some basic tips that I found helpful:
Start small – Nothing trains you say what you need in as few words as possible as writing short pieces. Summarize an article in a couple of paragraphs. Explain in 2-3 sentences what your favorite websites have to offer your colleagues. Write 200-word blog posts and expand from there.
Eliminate words – Write, revise, and–just when you think you’re finished–go back and delete anything you don’t need. Slash entire sentences, eliminate filler words like “very,” and use adjectives sparingly.
Practice – You won’t get good at anything if you only do it once in a while. Write as often as possible. Even 15-30 minutes a day, if done consistently, will make a big difference.
Don’t worry about the critics – You’ll get negative comments, and people will argue about your content. Some will suggest edits or other revisions. Ignore them and keep creating.
Read a lot – Reading gives you content for your social media posts and other writings, and it helps you become a better writer. Follow people who do it well and learn from those who don’t.
Don’t sweat the small stuff – Yes, you’ll make mistakes, and, honestly, people won’t care. Learn and move on.
Writing–no matter what you do–is one of the best business skills you can develop to set yourself up for success. Start with some simple steps to improve a little each day.
What would you add to this list?
In addition to these great suggestions, especially writing every day, reading through the latest edition of “Elements of Style” by Strunk and White never hurts. Short and to the point, and full of great guidance.
Great suggestion, Chris. Thanks!
A few more tips:
Write short sentences that convey a single thought. Long, convoluted sentences confuse people.
Read your writing out loud. If it sounds good, keep it. If it doesn’t, revise where needed.
Don’t get stuck waiting for inspiration. If you can’t write a first paragraph, write a second one. Or a third. The rest will fall into place.
Thank you for these tips, Pam. They’re perfect, and I need to remember #3 when I stare at a blank page (again).
Here’s another one:
Specifics make your writing strong. “The city is increasing its budget to combat homelessness” doesn’t tell you anything. Better: “In 2022, Denver budgeted $152,306,150 for housing and homelessness. That number grew to $180,948,669 for 2023, a 19% increase. In 2019, that budget was only $73,159,330, less than half what was budgeted last year.”
Example taken from Jennifer Kovaleski’s “Denver’s homeless population continues to grow despite more spending” which appeared this week on Channel 7’s website.
As always thanks Marcy for the great tips. I’m actually writing an article now. I’m not a writer so this was very helpful. Thanks again Marcy,
P.S. Keep the tips coming 🙂
Thanks, Troy. Glad you’re finding my posts helpful.