Written communication is a vital tool for modern professionals to convey their ideas to their clients, peers, and bosses. It is an essential skill that enables individuals to succeed in almost every industry. However, even the most intelligent and skilled professionals often lack the necessary writing skills to communicate their ideas effectively. In this article, we will explore three critical lessons for improving your business writing skills.
1. Plan Ahead by Writing an Outline
Creating an outline is an excellent way to ease the intense mental burden of the writing process. Writing requires individuals to organize their ideas into a coherent structure, translate their thoughts into words and sentences, and evaluate every new sentence to ensure it conforms to the previously written content. When individuals try to do all three steps simultaneously, they often find themselves getting stuck.
Therefore, it is essential to separate the different stages of writing as much as possible. This approach will help individuals concentrate on one task at a time, instead of juggling multiple jobs simultaneously. Creating an outline is an effective way of accomplishing the first stage of the writing process, which is organizing ideas into a clear structure.
To create an outline, individuals should start by jotting down their key points and considering how these points fit together. They should think about which points or counterpoints follow their main argument. Although creating an outline can be time-consuming, it saves time when it is time to write. An experiment by Professor Ronald Kellogg found that creating an outline helped students write better papers. Kellogg assigned random students into two groups, one group was asked to outline for up to ten minutes before writing, and the other group was instructed not to outline at all. Independent scorers found that the “outline” group wrote better papers.
2. Don’t Try to Write a Perfect First Draft
Individuals should avoid trying to perfect the wording of every sentence during the initial drafting stage. This approach creates an unnecessary mental workload since individuals try to write and revise at the same time. Instead, individuals should write a rough first draft that captures the gist of their ideas without worrying about the language’s finer details. After the first draft, individuals can go back and revise their sentences.
Alternatively, individuals can take a break after writing before coming back to analyze their wordings. A mental break will help individuals approach their draft with a fresh mind and develop new ideas.
3. Structure Your Writing for Skimmers
If individuals are writing lengthy documents, such as reports or proposals, they should write in a style that makes it easy for time-sensitive readers to find the information they need. These readers are usually skimmers who are looking to pick up the main ideas and specific examples.
To make the document skimmer-friendly, individuals should include an executive summary or clear introduction that summarizes the main points of the document. Similarly, the conclusion should provide the key takeaways without summarizing what has already been written in the document. Additionally, individuals should use subtitles and headings to direct readers to the most relevant sections.
Finally, individuals should organize each paragraph to make it easy for skimmers. They should start each paragraph with a topic sentence that conveys what the paragraph will cover. Skimmers should be able to understand the line of argument or the main points of the document by reading only the topic sentences.
In conclusion, written communication is a vital tool that modern professionals need to master to succeed in their industry. Improving business writing skills requires planning ahead by creating an outline, not trying to write a perfect first draft, and structuring the writing for skimmers. These skills will enable professionals to write faster and more effectively, ultimately aiding their success in the industry.