Whether you consider yourself a professional writer or not, chances are you have to prepare a report or write a proposal every now and then. Even if writing is not something you do all the time it’s worth considering that good writing makes a good impression and saves you time. How? Well, if you get your message across the first time, you’ll never hear the words: “What exactly did you mean by …?” Your readers will see exactly how clever you are and you won’t have to explain yourself. Again.
Put your best foot forward and manage your time better by following these simple steps:
- Set aside enough time for a writing project. Doing so allows you to write without the pressure of getting it right the first time. Fear and preoccupation are buggers that will inhibit the flow of your writing. Enough time also allows you to produce a number of drafts and choose the best one, which usually comes after about the third attempt.
- Don’t edit while you write. Editing while you write inhibits the flow of your writing. Don’t start editing until you have a full first draft.
- Treat your writing like dough. Just like dough needs to rest in order to rise to double its volume, so too your writing needs to rest. You need time away from your writing (even if it’s only an hour) before you can transform it to double its value. You’ll only notice certain errors or gaps when you look at it with fresh eyes.
- Edit with a dictionary and thesaurus. Reference works aren’t just useful for checking your spelling. They also offer idiomatic expressions and synonyms that can help you say the same thing in a clearer or more interesting way.
- Phone a friend or, better yet, a professional. The risk of being both writer and editor is that you’ll miss some things. When you are so well-acquainted with your subject it becomes difficult to see what’s lacking in your written expression thereof. This is where the perspective of the uninitiated comes in handy. Someone who’s encountering a topic for the first time won’t have the context you have (e.g., the research) in the back of their minds. So they’ll easily be able to point out gaps in your explanation that may be in your head but not on paper.
- Don’t waste an edit. It’s always easier to simply ‘accept all changes’ without looking at what was changed during the edit. However, you’ll only become better at avoiding certain mistakes once you become aware of them.