Writing is something almost everyone has to do. For some people, it is their entire career, but for most it is something they’re expected to be able to handle in addition to the rest of their responsibilities. Writing can actually be one of the most important things that you do; skilled communicators are an asset to any team, and your writing ability can have an impact on whether you’re hired or fired, promoted or passed over.
Fortunately, writing is something that can be practiced and learned. Even if you weren’t born a Shakespeare, you can become an effective and capable writer through intentional focus on improvement. With that in mind, here are four tips to help you write like a pro.
This section is much shorter than the others because saying too much would be the opposite of good writing. The only way to get better at writing is to do it as much as possible; that way you’ll know when to expound and when to keep it simple.
2. Get Feedback
Just like you might have a spotter in the gym, someone who can critique your form from angles that you can’t see, having a colleague who can look over your writing will help you develop much faster than you could on your own. They may notice stylistic or syntactical mistakes that escaped you, or have critiques to offer on voice or tone. Receiving consistent feedback is one of the best ways to grow as a writer, so consider finding an editing buddy to grow with. You can also find training and feedback in a more formal environment; GovLoop’s upcoming NextGen Training Summit for example features a workshop session on writing specifically in a government context.
3. Know the format/medium
Sending a text is not the same as sending an e-mail, and an e-mail is not the same as a formal report. Being able to match your voice, tone and content to the situation is a key part of being a good writer, and should be fairly easy to do. If you need practice, however, you can do a simple exercise by picking a piece of information, say a change in procedure at your office, and writing about it in different ways – say, a private message to a coworker, an officewide e-mail and a press release for public distribution. Seeing the differences between the three will help you understand how to easily modify your writing based on audience and purpose.
4. Make it Natural
While situationally-appropriate writing is important, everyone has a personal style that they shouldn’t be afraid to show. No one who’s a naturally funny writer should feel like they have to sound like Dostoevsky; no one who’s any kind of writer should sound like James Joyce. Having a consistent, unique voice will differentiate you from other writers, and let the reader know that there’s a personality behind the words they’re looking at.’
Like it or not, writing is likely to be a major part of your career. Whether it’s communicating with your coworkers or the public, it’s a skill that anyone wishing to be successful must master.