There’s No Substitute for Good Writing

In a recent article by Greg Simpson, Senior Vice President, Career Transition Practice Leader for Lee Hecht Harrison entitled “Write Away: Seven Tips for Improving Basic Writing Skills”, job seekers and hiring officials are in agreement about one thing: basic writing skills are lacking. Recent polls show job seekers feel a lack of confidence in their writing abilities, while employers frequently list effective written communication skills as missing in today’s workforce. To address this unfortunate consensus, Greg provides seven useful tips for improving ones writing. They are:

  1. Consider your audience. Know who’s reading your document and why. Does your audience have a high or low level of expertise? Will the readers understand the terminology you’re using or should you explain in more detail?
  2. Respect the rules. If you’re not sure about how to use punctuation or have a question on grammar, usage or style, visit searchable websites for clarification (Grammar Girl, The Elements of Style, and Guide to Grammar and Writing).
  3. Hit the books. If you think your writing skills are a bit rusty, consider taking a free, online refresher course (e.g. Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade) or enroll in a business writing class at your local community college.
  4. Know where you’re going. Create a short outline delineating your purpose, your supporting paragraphs, and your conclusion. An outline serves as your GPS—guiding you to your destination.
  5. Start journaling. Free-writing your thoughts for just 10 minutes a day will increase your comfort level with written expression.
  6. Break the block. If you’re suffering from writer’s block, pick up a notepad and start jotting down ideas in longhand. Studies show that handwriting engages areas of the brain related to thinking, language and working memory in ways that typing can’t.
  7. Raise the bar. When editing, combine short, choppy sentences into more complex ones; swap out over-used verbs and adjectives with more dynamic and precise options; and insert transitional words or phrases between sentences or paragraphs. These “finishing touches” enhance readability and the logical flow of thoughts.

As you all transition from student to professional lives, numbers one and two are particularly important to remember. After years spent writing academic papers, adjusting ones writing style to a professional audience can be challenging, but with practice becomes increasingly easier.  However, the rules of grammar remain fairly consistent across industries and it is essential to know them well as you progress through your careers. In age of social media and text messaging, it is important to remember that there is no substitute for good writing regardless of what industry you find yourself working within. Resumes, cover letters, proposals, memos an emails; all of these documents are inevitable tasks of working in a professional environment and are tests of ones writing abilities. So like any upcoming test…study , practice, and repeat.