By Julia Stinneford
Is your writing good? Could it be better?
Think hard before you answer. Good writing can be difficult to come by these days, as it’s a skill that many people in the business world don’t realize they need. But everybody should know how to write, especially in the world of Public Relations, where it’s crucial to know how to communicate through the written word. And if your business is trying to participate in PR, it’s just as vital for you.
So how can you improve your writing skills?
- Don’t rely on spellcheck. Microsoft Word has tools to help you, but they can be unreliable. For example, if you accidentally leave the R out of “three,” Word won’t correct it, because “thee” is also a word (albeit an old one). Sometimes those same tools identify perfect grammar as a mistake, even if there’s nothing wrong. The moral is: check it yourself. You should know how to fix your mistakes! And if you want to be really thorough, send it to a friend or colleague to proofread.
- Don’t get caught by common errors. Know the difference between “affect” and “effect,” and know how to make your sentence subjects and verbs agree with each other. You should be sure that your sentences are complete, so you don’t have any sentence fragments floating around. A good trick to catch all of these is to read your writing out loud and listen for what might be missing. When in doubt, you can always look it up.
- Pick your words carefully. Word choice is the most important part of writing. This may seem simple, but think critically. Choosing your words is about the flow of your writing, it’s about the readability, and it’s about being exact. Try to be sure of the definition of a word before you use it—you want to be sure you’re using it correctly. Getting your meaning across as clearly as possible takes precision.
- Be careful of your writing’s flow. Flow is impacted mostly by sentence length— you should be varying the length of your sentences. If all of your sentences are four lines long and have six commas, your reader will be too tired to get through it. On the other hand, if all of your sentences are short and clipped, the writing will be too choppy. So switch it up! Good flow makes it more accessible to the reader.
- Try to toe the line between professional writing and stuffy writing. A lot of “formal” writing is cluttered with pretentious and inaccessible language. At the same time, informal writing doesn’t have a place in the professional environment. Keep things simple and clear, and break down long sentences and jargon.
Overall, try to make your writing engaging and easy to read. That’s what makes writing effective, and simple tips like these can make all the difference.