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7 Expert Tips to Hone Your Writing Skills

Don't let poor proofreading cost you your job
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Office Management

7 expert tips to hone your writing skills

No matter what you're writing—a report, a memo, an email for your boss to sign—you want it to be clear and effective. Hone your professional writing skills with these expert tips.

A misplaced decimal, a name spelled wrong, a word misused, a number transposed – brush it off and the consequences can be dire. Don't leave this important task to chance.

1. Get to the point. Putting the most important information first is key, says Linda B. Gretton, assistant professor of strategic communication at High Point University. If you're writing a one-page memo, put your conclusion first and add supporting data later, she says.

2. Summarize. For longer reports, write an executive summary at the beginning, Gretton says. An executive summary can stand on its own, and people can get the main points quickly if they don't have time to read the full report right away.

3. Break up the text. Use bullet points, numbered lists or bold or italic fonts to highlight what's important, Gretton says. This can help your boss save time by making it easy to pick out key information.

Learn to proofread with perfection, get a grasp on grammar rules and sharpen your editing skills. If you need your written communication letter-perfect, we can help. Polish your writing with Proofread with Perfection: Proofreading and Editing Techniques for Flawless Communication.

4. Be brief. Practice writing on sticky notes, recommends John Znidarsic of Adcom. "Every email, PowerPoint slide or comment in the meeting should have only one clear message. If you can't fit it on a 2-inch-by-2-inch space, it probably won't fit into someone's short attention span."

5. Remember your audience. A report for an entire department will be written differently than a quick memo to your boss. Not thinking about your reader's knowledge or interest can make your writing less effective, says Susan Rooks of Grammar Goddess Communication. Keeping the audience in mind will help you target your message.

6. Cut the jargon. People often use big words or business jargon in an effort to look more intelligent, Rooks says. Instead, it ends up distracting from your core message. Cut back on buzzwords and focus on clear phrases that say what you mean.

7. Seek help. Workshops and classes can be helpful for perfecting your professional writing, says Steven Kendus, a corporate communications expert. In addition, enlist a second set of eyes to help you find errors or unclear phrases that you didn't notice.

Join us Tuesday, December 8, for our popular webinar Proofread with Perfection. Fred Kniggendorf, Ph.D., will discuss the most common types of errors, what you can do to catch – and fix – them, and the skills you need to produce effective, error-free communication.

Program highlights:
  • When to use a comma before the seven coordinating conjunctions
  • How to practice proofreading by watching the news on television
  • One very outdated proofing tip you'll hear about at practically every writing seminar
  • Why it's important that you have a style Fred Kniggendorfguide available when you write
  • Should bulleted items have periods? We'll talk about it!
  • Why you need to know basic punctuation rules
  • How to recognize trite and overused business words and phrases ("Pursuant to," "We are in receipt of") and some suggestions for what to use instead
  • What to look for when proofing and editing displayed and paragraphed lists
  • Editing out wasted words (e.g., "that are," "which is," "who was")
  • Why you should read a document aloud. (You'll catch errors and determine how it will sound to the reader as they sub-vocalize.)
Most readers of reports and emails are skeptical of the information contained in documents that are riddled with easily corrected surface errors. Don't let yours be one of them. Register for Proofread with Perfection now!
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