Improve your writing skills
with James Manktelow & Amy Carlson.
James Manktelow: Hello. I'm James Manktelow, CEO of MindTools.com, home to hundreds of free career-boosting tools and resources.
Amy Carlson: And I'm Amy Carlson from Mind Tools.
Many of us spend quite a bit of our days doing both of these things.
And, you don't need us to tell you how frustrating and time consuming it is when you have to read through an email or memo that's poorly written.
But, how proficient and clear is your own writing?
Poor writing not only causes delays and frustrations for others, but it can also set back your own career.
For instance, your boss may question your skills if you send unclear emails to her.
Or, poorly written instructions could confuse your team, lowering productivity and causing delays.
JM: If you write well, you're going to make a great impression on the people around you. So, it's definitely worth the effort to take the time to hone these skills.
The first step to writing clearly is to know your audience.
An email written to a trusted team member is going to sound different from an email you'd send to a new client. Make sure that the tone – and content – matches the audience that you're writing for.
When you're ready to start writing, think about your audience again. Remember, they have no idea about what you're going to tell them. What do they need to know first?
Next, identify your main theme. This is the central point that you want to make. If you're having trouble defining what your theme is, then imagine that you have fifteen seconds to explain your point.
What would you say?
AC: If you're creating a longer written piece, like a report, then take time to create an outline.
This will help you focus your thoughts so that you can lay out information in a logical order.
Outlines also help you make sure that you don't forget an important piece of information.
When you write, use simple words. Longer words can be impressive, but they can also confuse and frustrate your readers. Unless you're writing a highly technical piece, stick to simple, clear words.
Next, pay attention to the structure of your writing.
Long sentences and paragraphs are more difficult to read and understand.
Also, use headings, subheadings, and bullet points to break up your message.
JM: Once you've written your piece, go back over it for errors. This is a step many people skip, but grammatical errors are not only unsightly and confusing – they also make you look unprofessional.
So, make sure that you've used commas and apostrophes correctly, and that you haven't misused any words.
Your last step is to proof-read your document again. It's easy to overlook mistakes in our own writing, so it's always worth a second look.
You can make sure that your writing flows smoothly and easily by reading your document out loud.
AC: You can find more tips for improving your writing in the article that accompanies this video.
You can also learn more on becoming a better writer by going through our Bite-Sized Training session on Writing Skills.