What is written communication?
Expressing yourself clearly, briefly, logically, and simply in written form - letters, email, reports, proposals, sales letters, memos etc. It is also writing persuasively using plain language.
Everyone can write well, if you have the writing basics right - grammar, spelling, sentence structure etc. Just Google for each of these, whenever you need. Hopefully you will also by now learned about common writing and grammar mistakes, commonly misspelled words and so. Google these too.
1. Good writing is simple.
The four basic premises of writing are clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity.
- William Zinsser
2. Good writing writing is relevant.
Write for the reader.
3. Figure out the best way to structure your writing.
Structure is the first big component of any writing. It is how you lay out the content.
- Decide on an appropriate logical order for what you have to say
- Compose a strong introduction and ending. The first will make an immediate and positive impression on the reader; the second will remain in their mind after they have finished reading (Note: In today's age of information overload, start with a quick summary, newspaper-style)
- Use short paragraphs and sentences only.
- Keep to one idea per paragraph and put your point in the first line, then add the supporting information.
- Make key points to stand out using headings, sub-headings and bullet points. (Please, please make your document easily scannable, so the readers grasps the main points easily)
4. Use an appropriate style for your writing
- Formal or informal: Whatever the occasion, keep the structure simple.
- Using a style suitable for the intended audience
- Simpler and less technical language or more complex and details-oriented, covering complex concepts, depending on audience and topic
'Bad writers, and especially scientific, political, and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones, and (use) unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict, extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous.'
- George Orwell)
- Using bulleted lists
- Keeping wordy phrases to a minimum
- No repetition
- Concise, with an exact use of words and economy of style
- Active words as much as possible rather than the passive voice
- Jargon-free (and avoid the fancy buzzwords). Avoid cliches.
Let us have an end to such phrases as these: 'it is also important to bear in mind the following considerations' .... 'or consideration should be given to the possibility of carrying into effect'. Most of these woolly phrases are mere padding, which can be left out altogether, or replaced by a single word.
5. Figure out exactly what you will be writing about
- Having a clear objective
- Identify the key points, facts and themes
- Checking for spelling and punctuation errors
- Editing it through several revisions, honing the text until it is just right
'Cut every page you write by one third.' - Hillary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall
- Using empathy: being in the reader’s shoes
- Thinking through in advance what you want to say - listing the essential points you wish to make - making those points clearly
- Developing your argument in a logical way
- Not allowing detail to obscure the main issues
- One thought per sentence: The sentences will end up with different lengths, because some thoughts will be long and some short. This will set up a conversational tone.
- Writing positive and constructive stuff
- Writing with warmth, sensitivity and friendliness (if possible)
- Finally, put it away for a while, and look at it again (something you missed, something that could be done better)
6. There is not one type of writing
For example, even when you are giving out some information, there are many ways that information could be described depending upon the topic. You have to decide which kind is most important for the reader.
There are six types of information itself: Procedure - Process - Structure - Concept - Principle - Fact
7. Be careful with your lists
There is something called the Psychological Rule of 7±2: The audience is only able to hold on to between five and nine pieces of information at any one time.
(This writing guide grossly violates this rule.)
8. There are many rules for writing, but break them at will (without coming off as obtuse and confusing to the reader.)
9. Use personas: To get into the mind of your reader, think up a 'persona', an imaginary standby for your target reader (ship), giving the persona a name, face and some background details, and then think what that reader would like to know about the topic, or needs to know most on the topic.
10. Imitate: Try to write in the style of your favorite publications or writers, and it may help you find a style and voice of your own. Start by dissecting that writing, the language and tone they use, what you like most about the writing (this is very important).
11. Use outlines: Before you set out to write a longer letter or any piece, outline the matter first - main points, facts supporting each point, sequence - first para, second para etc. Start with a summary of our piece, end with reinforcing the main point/call to action etc.
Fiction writers, for example, break their work beforehand in chapters, scenes, themes etc.
12. Show, don't tell: This is the mainstay of all writing advices. Don't talk about the features of your new product, show how each feature will benefit the user.
13. Ruthlessly edit: The secret of good writing is editing. If you maintain the focus on the readers' need, it will not surprise you find your final piece less than half the original size, in some cases.
14. Get feedback for your writing: Get suggestions about readability, being on point and so on. You can get your own feedback - look at the piece after some time has passed, and you may find scope for improvement.
15. Read your work out loud. You will find mistakes that your eyes don't catch.
16. Find your 'voice': Always say what you think (just back it up with facts). Once you start to get well at making the big main point of each writing, you will soon start to make big 'original' points/opinions as well as well start to write in a style that suits you to make your points. You will find your 'voice', your own style.
17. Read a lot: Read on the topic you will be writing on. Do the research. Read up other stuff too. You will learn other points of views, and also find that no topic exists in isolation. Everything is connected.
18. Think a lot: Good writing starts from good thinking. It will help you structure and finetune your writing.
Think long, write short.
- George Lois.
19. Practice on writing good headlines and summaries: In this age of information overload, people read the headlines and the summaries on top first (and any accompanying image).
Google 'writing headlines, 'writing newspaper style' etc.
20. Write a lot: Write often (daily if you can). The more you will write, the better you will become.
Thank you for reading.
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