- Practice daily and seek feedback: Writing is a skill that improves with consistent practice. Make it a point to write every day, and seek constructive feedback to help you refine your skills.
- Read extensively: Reading exposes you to different writing styles, perspectives, and techniques that can inspire and influence your own writing. Diversify your reading materials to gain broader insights.
- Understand and adapt to your audience: Tailor your writing to your target audience's needs and expectations. This includes using simpler words for clarity, crafting persuasive arguments, and employing different writing styles based on the context and purpose of your writing.
Regardless of your job title or industry, being able to write effectively can have a big impact on your professional life; helping you build credibility, create opportunities for career advancement, and collaborate more effectively.
And yet, despite their importance, most people take their writing skills for granted and never think about trying to improve them. The good news is, if you take some time to polish up your written communication, you stand a chance at really making yourself stand out in an increasingly competitive market.
This guide will walk you through the key steps to becoming a better writer, offering practical tips and strategies for improving your writing skills in the workplace.
The importance of writing skills
Let's start with the basics: why is it so important to write well anyway?
Ensuring you're understood
The ultimate aim of all communication, written or otherwise, is to be understood. Strong writing skills are essential for conveying ideas, sharing information, and, most importantly, doing so in a way that the reader understands. Unlike spoken communication, where non-verbal cues like body language or facial expressions help improve comprehension, it can be challenging to make sure that written communication is understood correctly.
In the workplace, it's now even more important to get this right. As more companies around the world explore remote or hybrid work, we're often trading face-to-face discussions for written communication on tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams, so it's vital to make sure we're writing clearly and effectively.
Building credibility and trust
Professionals who can write effectively are usually perceived as more credible and trustworthy. Well-written documents and correspondence create a positive impression, showcasing your attention to detail, critical thinking abilities, and overall competence.
The opposite is also true. Poorly written communication with spelling mistakes can be very damaging to the credibility of an author. There's a reason that we're told to look out for spelling and grammar mistakes when identifying potentially malicious emails or messages.
Career advancement opportunities
Being able to express yourself clearly in writing can open doors to new opportunities and career growth. Managers and decision-makers are more likely to recognize and reward employees who can communicate their ideas effectively and persuasively. Simply being able to communicate your value well can be advantageous when negotiating a salary, asking for a raise, or pushing for a promotion.
Writing well is a great demonstration of thinking well, that is; taking the time to collect thoughts, refine them, and structure them in an organized way.
"Good writing is an unsung hero, silently lifting your professional image. Bad writing, on the other hand, is distracting and affects the credibility of what you say. Writing well is imperative for professional success; writing exceptionally really has the power to make you stand out.”
Building a strong brand
Your writing style, tone, and clarity contribute to your personal and professional brand. This is true both internally at your organization, but also as you build your personal brand across platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn. By honing your writing skills, you can create a consistent and compelling image that sets you apart from others and makes you stand out in a competitive job market.
How to become a better writer
Now you know why writing is important at work, it's time to explore how to become a better writer.
1. Use simpler words and phrases
As mentioned already, the key to effective communication is to convey a message and have it clearly understood. One core place to start is by avoiding complex language or jargon. Instead, choose simpler words and phrases that make your message easy to understand, even for readers with limited knowledge of the subject.
Trim your sentences and paragraphs, removing any unnecessary words or repetitive ideas. Concise writing helps you communicate more effectively and keeps your readers engaged.
2. Read more
Reading exposes you to diverse writing styles and techniques, sparking new ideas and helping you develop your voice. As you look to develop your own writing style, keep an eye out for quality content in various genres and mediums. Explore books, blogs, and publications that are relevant to your industry and examine not just what they say but how they share thoughts and ideas, too.
Pay attention to how accomplished writers and leaders craft their sentences, use punctuation, and structure their ideas. Identify what works for you and incorporate those techniques into your writing. Keep track of everything you read in Reading Tracker.
3. Write every day
Just like any other skill, writing improves with practice. Set aside time each day to write intentionally, whether it's for work, personal projects, or simply writing in a journal. Making writing a daily habit helps you build up a word count quickly: just 50 words a day adds up to 1500 words a month!
It's important to note that this dedicated writing time should be more than just the emails or messages you send as part of your job. This is about building an intentional writing habit where you learn to convey thoughts or ideas in unique and interesting ways.
Keep a log of your writing practice with a habit tracker to help make writing a habit.
“Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations."
4. Know your audience
Understand who your readers are and what they need from your writing. This will help you to craft a message that resonates with your target audience. Whether you're writing an article for a website or an email to a team member, think about who is going to be on the other side of the screen and try to tailor the message for them. What's the core message you're sharing? What is your audience's need or expectation? How can you write in a way that connects with them?
5. Start with an outline
Before diving into your writing, create an outline that maps out your main points and supporting details. This will help you maintain focus and ensure your ideas flow logically.
Of course, there are countless micro-communications like emails, comments, or Slack messages that won't need an outline, but for important messages or communication, it's vital to have a clear plan before you start writing. Outlines can save you time and energy by providing a clear roadmap of what you want to write.
“If you want to be a writer you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
Give Craft a try
Your documents will never be the same again
5 core writing skills and how to improve them
As we've seen, having solid writing skills allows you to communicate better and even advance in your career. As well as core writing conventions like spelling and grammar, below we list some other key writing skills you'll need to perfect with some tips for how to improve them.
Grammar & Punctuation
Grammar is the backbone of clear and precise communication. A lack of proper grammar can not only come across as jarring and unprofessional but can even lead to total miscommunication. The best-selling grammar book "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves" uses the humorous example of a grammatical error in the book's title.
- The panda eats shoots and leaves: this is an innocuous description of a panda and its eating habits.
- The panda eats, shoots, and leaves: just two commas give this sentence a dramatic twist with a panda wielding a gun.
How to improve your grammar
To level up your grammar skills, consider using platforms like Grammarly that not only correct mistakes but also explain the grammar rule behind them. For those still curious, The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr is a go-to book when it comes to grammar. Or if you'd prefer a lighter approach, Eats, Shoots, and Leaves provides humorous and witty examples of grammar gone wrong (and what mistakes to avoid in your own writing). Plus, there are lots of simple online grammar courses on websites like Coursera or Udemy.
Accurate spelling makes your writing more readable and helps improve your credibility and professionalism.
How to improve your spelling
To improve spelling, first enable spell-check on all your devices. Spell-check isn't foolproof (it can sometimes let through words that are spelled correctly but used in the wrong context, for example), but spell-check is a great first line of defense for filtering out bad spelling. Another good practice is to make a list of words you often misspell and practice them.
Research skills are crucial for informed decision-making and problem-solving. They help you to gather information in a systematic way and enable you to identify reliable resources better.
How to improve your research skills
There are two main areas to think about for improving your research skills. Start by refining your search queries on search engines like Google, using specific keywords and advanced search functions to find reliable and relevant sources. The other core component of effective research is learning how to evaluate the credibility of online sources and cross-referencing information sources where possible to ensure their accuracy.
Creating an outline before you start writing helps you plan your ideas and makes your writing clearer and easier to follow.
How to improve your outlining skills
To improve your outlining skills, start by writing down your main idea and then list the points you want to make in support of it, ensuring you cover all necessary details. Practice rearranging these points in a different order to see what flows best and makes your argument or explanation easier to understand.
Editing your writing is important because it helps you fix mistakes, clarify your ideas, and make your message more compelling and understandable. A first draft is about getting your ideas out of your head and onto the page, but it's the editing phase where you polish and improve those ideas, making them more readable.
How to improve your editing skills
To improve your editing skills, first, take a break after writing so you can return with fresh eyes and catch more errors or awkward phrasing. If you have the option, consider coming back to the writing on an entirely different day so you return with a fresh perspective on it. Second, try reading your work aloud to spot any areas that don't flow smoothly or sound natural. Brushing up on your grammar and spelling skills, as noted above, will also help a lot with this editing phase.
Types of writing in the workplace
1. Expository Writing: Informing with precision
What is expository writing?
Expository writing is a type of writing where the author's main purpose is to inform or explain a topic to the reader, often involving clear, concise facts and logical reasoning, without personal opinion.
Examples in the workplace
It's commonly used in business communication, technical writing, manuals, and guides, where conveying clear, understandable information is key.
Tips for effective expository writing
For effective expository writing, focus on clarity and precision, ensuring that your information is presented in a well-structured, logical way that's easy to understand. Use facts, examples, and evidence to support your points, and avoid complex jargon or overly technical language that could confuse your reader.
2. Descriptive Writing: Painting pictures with words
What is descriptive writing?
Descriptive writing creates vivid images through detailed descriptions and sensory language. It's often used in storytelling and creative writing but can also enhance business communication.
Examples in the workplace
In the workplace, descriptive writing can be found in marketing materials, product descriptions, client proposals, creative briefs, and even in crafting compelling narratives in reports and presentations. Using descriptive language helps to make the content more memorable and impactful.
Tips for effective descriptive writing
To improve descriptive writing, focus on including details that cover all the senses - what you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. Use strong, specific words and vary your sentences to keep your writing engaging, but avoid overly complex language that could confuse your reader.
3. Persuasive Writing: Winning hearts and minds
What is persuasive writing?
Persuasive writing aims to convince the reader to accept a certain viewpoint or take a specific action. It uses logical arguments, compelling evidence, and emotional appeals.
Examples in the workplace
In the workplace, persuasive writing can be found in sales pitches, marketing materials, proposals, cover letters, and any communication aimed at influencing the opinion or behavior of others.
Tips for effective persuasive writing
For effective persuasive writing, clearly articulate your position or argument, and support it with logical reasoning, solid evidence, and compelling examples. Understand your audience's needs and perspectives, and use persuasive techniques like the appeal to emotions, values, or logic to sway their opinions.
4. Narrative Writing: Storytelling in the workplace
What is narrative writing?
Narrative writing is a style that tells a story or shares an experience, typically unfolding in a chronological sequence and often including elements such as characters, settings, and a plot.
Examples in the workplace
In a professional context, it can be used in case studies, storytelling in marketing, personal narratives in presentations, or providing context in reports, all with the aim of engaging the reader and making the content relatable.
Tips for effective narrative writing
To improve narrative writing, first, organize your story with a clear start, middle, and end, using characters or situations your reader can connect with. Second, use detailed descriptions to make your story more vivid, and manage the speed of your story to keep your reader engaged until a rewarding ending.
How to highlight writing skills on your resume
Knowing how important writing skills are for professional success, it's important that you can demonstrate them on your resume, too. Here are a couple of tips for highlighting your writing skills in a way that gets noticed by your future employer:
1. Understand what specific skills and qualities the company values. Focus on those associated with effective communication and writing.
2. Conduct a self-assessment to identify your relevant writing abilities. Are you adept at crafting persuasive emails, compiling comprehensive reports, or generating engaging content? Match these skills with what the company seeks.
3. Finally, highlight tangible experiences that demonstrate these skills. For instance, if you have been responsible for drafting company-wide communications, mention this and specify the positive impact it had, like an increased response rate or improved clarity in internal communication. If you have written blog posts or articles, note any significant engagement metrics or positive feedback received. Including such experiences with supporting examples or data not only enhances the credibility of your claims but also effectively communicates the depth of your writing proficiency to potential employers.
The ability to write effectively is a critical skill in the professional world. Not only does it enable clear communication, but it also enhances your credibility, fosters trust, and can help you advance in your career. By investing time and effort into honing your writing skills, you can distinguish yourself in an increasingly competitive marketplace.