Oscar Wilde wrote, “If you cannot write well, you cannot think well; if you cannot think well, others will do your thinking for you.” We may not aspire to write as wittily as Wilde did, but nonetheless, it is crucial in any business to write clearly and coherently to get ahead. Here are some tips on how to write clearly.
When you begin writing, you should always consider your audience. At work, ensure that you do not use colloquial language in any written communication, even in internal mails to colleagues. Your tone at work should err on the side of formality – don’t try to make jokes in emails as it may not go down very well! Nonetheless, make sure that your personal stamp is evident so you can stand out from the crowd and be noticed.
Always use simple language. A great rule is that a reader should never have to read a sentence twice to understand its meaning. The English language is at its best at its simplest and worst when full of clichés. If you are tempted to capitalise words to emphasise a point – don’t! Try to use a mixture of short and long sentences and break up complex sentences into shorter ones.
Make sure that you have a distinct beginning, middle and end to any writing. Try to use an opening line that will catch the reader’s attention and an opening paragraph to give the reader an idea of what points you will cover and in what order. Make sure that you break up your text in paragraphs and use bullets or standalone sentences to highlight important points. The closing paragraph may either present a personal point of view or bring together ideas already presented – never introduce new information at the end of any written communication.
Remember that the first draft of any written work will never be the best one. Once you have got all your ideas down, organise them carefully and remove any unnecessary information. After you finish editing your work, read what you have written out loud to yourself. Does it flow off your tongue? Use no more words than you need to make your meaning clear. Where one word can replace a phrase, use one word.
Although most of us always use spellcheck before sending out any business letters, emails or presentations, we all have a ‘blind spot’ when it comes to certain words. Keep a dictionary handy to check words you are unsure of. Print out important documents so that common spelling errors will stand out to you better.
Finally, remember that the best way to improve your writing is to read as much as you can. Read the newspaper, articles on the Internet, fiction and nonfiction books and magazines. Notice good writing and try to absorb it into your own way of expressing yourself – this surely the best way to improve your communication all around!
Volume 1 Issue 6