Be a Better Writer — Today


Writing skills are essential in today’s society. While not every job is writing-intensive — you may not be composing grant applications or white papers on a daily basis — nearly every role involves some written communication. E-mail is writing. Social media is writing. We are represented by our words, and it always behooves us to make sure those words are doing a good job.

So are you a good writer? You may be. But it can be hard to know for sure. And no matter what, you can probably be better. And you don’t need an advanced degree or week-long workshop to get that way.

You can make your writing better today by asking yourself three questions about everything you write:

Is it clear?

It’s entirely possible that whoever is reading your e-mail, Facebook post, or memo will give you points for style. But the only thing that’s 100% certain is that they need to understand what you’re saying. Flashy and fun have their place. But if your e-mail asking your boss to approve your attendance at a conference doesn’t spell out a) where the conference is, b) how much it costs, and c) why you should be the one to go, you’re not communicating clearly.

Is it concise?

Not only should you be sure you’re putting the right information in your writing, you should also be sure you’re not putting too much other information alongside it. The good stuff can get buried in other stuff. And the other stuff doesn’t even have to be bad to be distracting. In the example of asking your boss to approve your attendance at the conference, you can leave out anything about how much you enjoy the host city, exactly which flights you would take to arrive and depart, the fact that someone you know once went to the conference and liked it… if it’s not persuasive, leave it out.

Is it right for the audience?

The most important factor in whether a piece of writing is effective isn’t who’s writing it — it’s who’s reading it. Language that’s perfect for an academic white paper is terrible on a billboard, and vice versa. Knowing your audience is a huge key to success. You don’t need to know every single thing about them, but do give basic consideration to what appeals to them, what information is most important, and their state of mind. Your writing will be better if you do.

Jael Maack 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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