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Amplify Your Professional Writing Skills

Some people are natural born writers who can easily string together concise messages with little to no effort. The rest of us are “writers-in-progress” who know it takes time to craft an effective business message. The best approach to strong business writing is varied and based on the several things:

  • Solid research
  • Editing skills
  • Turning critiques into coaching tips

Government communications continues to incorporate plain language, 508-compliant materials as well as solid research to create accurate messages. Consequently, your writing needs to be fact based and verifiable so that senior leaders can trust the messages they are about to convey are credible. It is important to conduct a thorough search regarding your writing topic by viewing diverse data sources to obtain the complete picture.

Moreover, the ability to generate good written products also relies on accepting feedback from multiple editors and then making the changes as necessary. Some of the feedback from editor’s including your boss may be hard to accept. Yet, there is always a lesson to learn from hearing the “hard stuff” at the office regarding one’s writing skills. In addition, sometimes speeches require writing from a team of communications professionals making one cohesive message from a diverse pool of resources. When they collaborate and develop a cohesive message it is the result of everyone agreeing that no one person “owns” the speech. It is a group effort.

Channel writing critiques into lessons learned:

  • Listen to feedback and then walk away to absorb the critique
  • Ask questions if you do not understand the suggested changes
  • Be honest in your coaching
  • Learn to be more receptive to input, the bad or otherwise scathing
  • Avoid “group think” by using the “tenth man rule” so that you can openly object if everyone simply agrees to maintain harmony
  • Cut yourself some slack on the self-criticism
  • Try writing a variety of products to enhance your skills

Tracey Batacan is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Lisa Shaw

Tracey,
Thank you, for your tips. I am my biggest critic on my writing style. Two questions, how do you get past the fear of writing rejections? How does one find a writing coach?

Profile Photo Tracey Batacan

Hi Lisa. Thank you for the comments. I learned how to let go of the writing rejections by truly taking a step back and see what message is in the critique. This is something that occurred over time for me because each organization that I work with has different processes for approving public messages. Consequently, I tell myself each time that the writing critique is not personal, it is only business. Learn something new from it. Also, the best writing coaches will help you enhance your own writing ability instead of taking over your writing efforts. If you develop a structurally strong message and you are simply trying to make it more pith, but the writing coach turns your work into their next byline, then that is not helping you learn and grow your writing skills. Also, trust yourself with your writing based on your experience. You will know when a person is helpful or just plain overwhelming.

Profile Photo Peter Macinkovic

Great advice, Tracy. There are writing formulas such as the 10C’s of effective writing that people can apply:

– Complete: You can’t assume the read has all the pertinent information that lives in your head. A complete message includes the when, how, where, what and why in a concise manner.
– Concise: Reducing redundant words helps avoid confusion for the reader. Eliminating conjunctions is key to the process to clarify each sentence.
– Clear: Same with the above – clarity removes ambiguity. Remove jargon (unless the reader absolutely 100% expects this jargon) and incomplete text.
– Conversational: A warm tone and using name/title when appropriate. If your writing reads “Me, Me, Me”, it is too centric and you are writing from a narrow perspective.
– Correct: Accuracy. Like you said in your post, Tracy, good solid research is necessary to obtain the complete picture.
– Coherent: Make sure your writing is clear, structured and flows in a logical manner. Nothing is more distracting that writing that jumps around everywhere.
– Concrete: Complete writing means: avoiding “as many as”, “some say”, “it seems to me”. Facts. Dates. Concrete Numbers.
– Courteous: Put the reader first, avoiding terms like “you must”, “if you’re not” etc. Business writing is not sales writing, choice of words is important.
– Considerate: Ensuring that your text is easy to scan. Paragraphs, bullet points, emphasis can help improve the reading experience..

Yesenia

Ah, so you’re not a first-timer, eh? 🙂 though this blog was posted a while ago, it offers great reminders for writers at all levels. Thank you!