How to improve your Writing Skills

Types of writing, their importance and tips to make it better

Wot happens when yr writing skills look lyk dis? Hmm. If you don’t think there’s anything wrong with that sentence, well, then, this article is especially meant for you, although we doubt you will read beyond the first 140 characters.

With Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp accounting for the bulk of what people read nowadays, it is not surprising that business writing is approximating social media posts and chats. Ugh!

Yet good writing skills are the bedrock of good communication, which is the basis of our day-to-day professional lives. We cannot function at work without communicating with each other, verbally or in writing.

For instance, a well-written resume can help you land your dream job, great advertising copy can drive sales (and promotions!) and smartly worded communication can close a tricky business deal.

Professional Writing Skills

Most importantly – and most commonly – good writing skills help you to connect with people. So the type of job you have makes no difference to the quality of your writing skills.

Even if you have no intention of working in the media or in public relations, which require top-notch writing skills, you still need to be able to write clearly, concisely and correctly.

Whether texting or emailing a colleague, writing to your team leader or crafting the company newsletter, writing skills are a basic requirement for you to perform adequately at the workplace.

Look at the flipside. An ill-phrased or careless email or memo can make people baulk, and that can colour the impression of the sender, regardless of his or her actual abilities or qualifications.

Worse, it could lead to miscommunication, disrupt workflow, cause deadlines to be missed or provoke misunderstandings.

Writing Skills At The Workplace

Even the digital space, an area many do not associate with particularly great writing skills, calls for effective or at least accurate written communication.

Why, it sometimes it even calls for superior writing ability. For instance, if you work with a digital marketing company, where writing blog posts or product descriptions is part of your job, you will need excellent writing skills to perform well.

Did you know that grammatical errors, bad punctuation and misspellings cost Internet businesses millions of dollars every year?

Studies have shown that bad English puts off consumers, who have concerns about a website’s credibility and will not buy products featured on those portals.

Another area that calls for especially good writing skills is resume writing. And who doesn’t need that? Since your resume or cover letter is the first impression you create with employers – and bad writing creates a terrible impression – do the math when weighing your chances.

In fact, many employers state upfront that a CV containing spelling or grammatical errors will be rejected immediately.

Apart from the obvious pitfalls of shoddy writing, poor writing skills are also a red flag to employers that you are not fit for management roles. Justified or not, they also read it as a sign of lower intelligence.

Alternatively, people with good writing skills come off as professional, capable, competent and credible, and they command greater authority than those whose emails, memos and reports are littered with errors.

Effective Writing Skills

Let’s look at some common methods of communication at the workplace that call for smart and effective writing skills.

Email

Believe it or not, email is not a particularly effective tool of communication unless you use it correctly.

Remember, there is a crucial element missing in this form of communication – tone of voice and facial expressions – and this cannot be fixed by using smiley faced emoticons!

Minus these important cues, brevity can just as easily be mistaken for rudeness and a warm and polite written message for coming on strong!

Here are a few pointers. To warm up the conversation, start on a personal note; avoid using words with strong emotional connotations; keep it short and use simple sentences; read your email twice to correct errors or rephrase parts of it; and don’t send it right away if it’s a long, loaded or important email.

It’s always better to make amendments rather than make amends!

Report Writing

Some career domains such as business, technical and engineering require a fair amount of report-writing. A report is a factual document usually aimed at a specific audience. It analyses a problem, discusses it, and makes recommendations for action.

For instance, a committee evaluating an infrastructure project that requires a bridge to be built will prepare a report on the present situation and suggest how the proposed bridge could solve transportation problems in the locality.

When writing a report, follow a formal structure and break it down into headers and sub-headers. Start with an introduction, follow that with the main body of the report, and end with a conclusion.

Also, prepare a page-long or even shorter summary or extract of your report. Write clearly and concisely, and never use too much jargon, so that just about anyone can use your report for reference.

Technical Writing

Technical writers craft and write documents such as product and service manuals, quick-start guides, white papers, policy manuals and provide online help. While domain knowledge is mandatory or can be learnt on the job, writing style can make all the difference to whether users actually benefit from what you write.

A technical writer has an especially tough task to achieve. While every writer struggles to hold their readers’ attention, a technical writer must do that while guiding a reader through a product or service that the latter is already having a problem with or attempting to become proficient in.

Technical writing skills include the ability to be crisp and crystal clear, and convey the message to a wide variety of readers.

How To Improve Your Writing Skills

As we have seen, people communicate in writing on a daily basis at work. But much of it is garbled or riddled with errors, thus tripping up the writer at every step of the way.

Yet the worst thing you can do is let your writing skills – or lack of them! – get in the way of your career.

Not to worry. With some effort and patience, you can hone your business writing skills.

One of the best ways to do this is to read, read, read!

Set aside 30 minutes a day for focused reading. You can pick up a novel, a magazine or a news website, doesn’t matter as long as it’s well written.

After a while, you will learn through repetition. There are also numerous online courses you can take that will bring your writing skills up to speed.

Here are a few tips for effective business writing.

One, know your audience because this will influence the style, tone and format of your writing. For instance, are you crafting an in-house email or are you writing a white paper for a wide audience?

Two, keep it simple. Attention spans are shrinking and people just don’t have the time or inclination to ‘figure it out’. Never sound pedantic. On the contrary, use short sentences and simple language. Avoid using jargon and definitely avoid loaded words.

Three, proofread and, when writing proposals or sending a client a delicately worded email, it might be better to ‘save as draft’, only to re-read and ‘send’ at a later date.

Back to the list of key skills.