Improving Written Communication Skills-Guest Blog
I'm not sure whether it's all the texting, tweeting, and other short forms of written communication we engage in, but I see more and more people struggle to clearly articulate their thoughts in writing. Jordan Conrad at WritingExplained.org got my attention with some of his practical tweets about writing, and I was thrilled when he offered to share some of his thoughts about improving our written communication skills. Here are some tips from Jordan:
5 Ways to Effectively Manage Written Communication Skills
By: Jordan Conrad – Writing Explained
Candidates must have strong written communication skills.
If you are filling out job applications or searching for a promotion within your own company, you’ve almost certainly seen this. Or, perhaps you’re the one doing the hiring, and you’ve listed it as a requirement for an opening in your department.
Either way, strong communication skills are essential in the modern workplace, and written communication is often our first and only means of communication with prospective employers, so any slipups can cost us dearly.
Today, I want to highlight five ways to effectively manage and improve your own written communication skills.
1. Know the fundamentals.
You cannot be an effective communicator if you are shaky on the fundamentals of grammar and usage. Good grammar and proper usage are essential to avoiding embarrassing mistakes.
For those who haven’t attended a formal English class is some time, don’t fret. There are plenty of free resources that can be accessed at your local library or online. Of course, you can always go to the confusing words section of Writing Explained.
2. Make Outlines
Making an outline, for me, is a difficult task, and one that I usually do begrudgingly. It requires some future planning that doesn’t come naturally, but when you are giving a speech, making a presentation at work, or putting together a grant proposal, it is patently obvious when someone is not working from a prepared outline.
Going off/writing off the cuff works for a select few, but for the rest of us, we need to prepare outlines to reign in our work, keeping our words relevant, structured, and succinct. Taking a few minutes to create a detailed outline can be the difference between a well-received presentation or one that rambles on and on.
3. Always Proofread
As common sense as it may seem, a surprising number of people don’t proofread their work before sending it out. Or, for those who do, they give it a quick re-read directly after adding the period to their last sentence.
The best way to proofread any piece of writing is to come back to it the next day and then give it a once over. Sometimes, however, deadlines make this option impossible.
When you can’t separate yourself from the piece for 24 hours, proofread it sentence by sentence backwards. This will detach your mind enough from the piece that you will read what the words actually say, not just what you want them to say.
4. Practice Writing
Again, a common sense step to becoming a more effective communicator that is often overlooked by many professionals: practice your writing. Writing is no different than football, skiing, or chess; the more you practice, the better you will become. Practice can take many forms: writing essays, blog posts, journal entries, etc.
5. Read More
Stephen King said in this book On Writing, “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
If you’re looking for an easy way to improve your writing without putting in hours of practice or studying, start by reading more books. Reading is an effortless and enjoyable way to improve your written communication skills, and by immersing yourself in the works of other skilled writers, you will start to see your writing improve without much direct effort at all.
By following these five easy steps, you will begin to see your writing and communications skills improve, setting yourself up for bigger and better opportunities in the future.
If you would like additional writing tips or have further questions on grammar, style, and usage, please check out my full website WritingExplained.org. There I have full explanations on hundreds of commonly confused words as well as an e-book download on 35 common writing mistakes to avoid.