Your Writing Skills For Professional Success
By Dawn Josephson
sales letter you can't put down
the advertising copy
that makes you want the product
the resume that prompts
you to call the job candidate this second
are examples of exceptional business writing. While you
certainly know good writing when you see it, can you write
with the same pizzazz the professionals use to hold your
attention for pages on end?
business world, writing skills have taken a backseat to
other seemingly more important corporate development activities.
Most business executives would rather attend a seminar on
negotiation strategies or marketing tactics rather than
learn the proper usage of "that" or "which"
in a sentence. What they fail to realize, however, is that
good writing skills are just as important to their future
success as is their ability to locate prospects and close
deals. Without good writing skills, your printed documents
may very well undermine the professional image you work
so hard to achieve.
fact is that your prospects, your clients, and even the
media judge you and your business based on the written documents
you put out to the world. Sales letters riddled with errors,
advertising copy that is boring, and media announcements
that ramble on for pages send the message that you're careless,
uncreative, and possibly incapable of delivering quality
work. People want to do business only with those individuals
they perceive as knowledgeable and competent. Your writing
is the perfect opportunity to showcase your professionalism
and win the deal.
of the Trade
don't have to be a professional editor or journalist to
write effectively. In fact, there are a number of self-editing
techniques professional writers use to catch embarrassing
errors that could cost them the job. Use these guidelines
as a way to proofread your own writing so you can make all
your printed materials reflect the professionalism you display
in every other business activity.
your work out loud
they write a document, most people reread it to themselves
to scan for errors. While this is certainly a good start,
it should not be your sole means of proofreading. After
scanning the document silently, read it out loud and really
listen to the words you're saying. Does your tongue stumble
over a block of words? Do certain phrases sound funny or
out of place? Is a sentence so long that you're gasping
for breath by the time you reach the period? Do your own
words put you to sleep?
these are signs that a section of your document needs some
tweaking. When you read a document to yourself, you're relying
on only your eyes to catch writing errors. However, when
you read a document out loud, you're activating your sense
of hearing and forcing your brain to concentrate on each
individual word rather than visual cluster. Now you not
only see missing commas, incorrect words, or subject-verb
disagreements, but you can also hear when something sounds
out of place. When you hear as well as see what you're writing,
you can catch more errors and produce a written document
that holds the reader's attention.
on yourself, not your spell check
spell-check feature on your computer is both a blessing
and a hindrance to writing success. While spell check can
locate and correct blatantly misspelled words, it can't
catch those words that are spelled correctly but used incorrectly.
You know the words: right/write, meet/meat, you're/your,
there/their/they're, no/know, plus a host of others. Such
words, called homonyms, are often immune to computerized
spell check features and can single-handedly undermine your
reread your document, both silently and out loud, pay special
attention to known homonyms and read out your contractions.
So if your text reads, "Please know which word *you're*
supposed to use," proofread it as "Please know
which word *you are* supposed to use." This way you'll
be able to catch those instances when you write, "You're
writing skills are impeccable," but really mean "Your
writing skills are impeccable."
Start from the end
more you read something, the more your brain begins to memorize
it. If you reread a document over and over, you eventually
get to the point where your brain knows what's coming next,
so your eyes go into scan mode. While you think you're really
reading the document closely, your brain is only picking
up key words and drawing on memory to fill in the blanks.
though your 50th read-through confirms that your document
is error-free, your reader (who has never seen the document
before) will quickly spot careless errors you scanned right
over. When you feel that you've read your document too many
times and can't get past scan mode, mix things up for your
brain. Read the last sentence of your document first just
to check for things like sentence structure, grammar, spelling,
etc. Then read the sentence above the last and do the same.
Pull sentences out of the text at random and check for errors.
each sentence as a stand alone unit rather than as part
of a flowing document, your brain will perk up and not be
anticipating the next memorized line. You'll catch more
errors when you look at the individual elements of your
document instead of focusing on the overall content.
to the experts
may have a dictionary on your office bookshelf and perhaps
even a thesaurus. But do you have a good grammar guide?
Anyone who produces written documents can quickly improve
his or her writing simply by referring to a grammar guide
for writing tips. Your local bookstore has many grammar
guides available. Browse through a few to determine which
one adequately addresses your particular writing challenges.
guides focus specifically on grammar issues, while others
pay particular attention to matters of writing tone and
style. Some target fiction writers or journalists, while
others angle their topics to business writing. Choose a
guide you're comfortable with, refer to it often, and watch
your writing improve.
in business is fierce these days. Don't let a misspelled
word or incorrect sentence kill the deal. Practice the tricks
of self-editing so every written document you produce showcases
your knowledge, competence, and professionalism. Before
you know it, your prospects and clients will be unable to
resist your written messages, and your company's profits
Josephson, Professional Writing Stylist, is President
and founder of Cameo Publications, an editorial services
and self-publishing firm. She helps professional speakers,
authors, and business leaders transform their ideas into
written materials that entertain and inform audiences worldwide.
For more information, please call 717-651-5354, e-mail Dawn@CameoPublications.com