Last week I received an email from a young woman who is a student at the University of Texas. She wanted to do provide some career advice in a guest post for this blog. Here is what she said…
I am a Junior English Major at the University of Texas, and I also freelance part-time as a writer for Online Universities.com. I mostly write about higher education, but I am looking to expand my writing portfolio and blog audience, so I was wondering if you would be interested in publishing a guest post on your career success blog.
I responded, telling Katheryn that I would be happy to have her do a guest post – and that since she is an English major, a post filled with common sense ideas on how to communicate effectively in writing would be great.
The next day, I found this article in my in box.
How to Communicate Effectively in Writing
When it comes to our writing, teachers instruct us to be wordy from a young age. As soon as students learn to read fluently, they are exposed to textbooks of varying subject matter. These textbooks are full of lengthy sentences and analogies that stray from the point. For example, instead of saying “Bob likes hamburgers,” a textbook author would write: Hamburgers, a delicacy not foreign to most Americans, are enjoyed regularly by Bob.
Come again? Does the textbook writer sound smarter because his/her sentence is longer? I hope you don’t think so. In fact, you may have to read the sentence twice to decipher the simple fact: Bob likes hamburgers.
When it comes to effectively and persuasively communicating your ideas through writing, more does not always mean merrier. As the sentence above shows, we sometimes lose the main objective in lengthy, obscure sentences. Sticking to the main point is CRUCIAL to convince the reader that you are a credible source. Here are some general rules to follow in your writing.
Avoid Using Passive Voice
You should always make sure your subject is the performing the action! It should not receive the action. In other words, don’t let the hamburgers control Bob. Bob CONTROLS the hamburger. Here are two examples of active versus passive voice sentence constructions.
Passive: The hamburgers are eaten by Bob every day.
Active: Bob eats hamburgers every day.
Passive: After work, the gym is visited by Bob.
Active: Bob visits the gym after work.
The Shorter the Better
Try to keep your sentences short and to the point. Writing in a concise manner is actually harder than writing long imprecise sentences. This is because you have to focus on being clear and stylistically adequate. By keeping this is mind, you will be less likely to lose your reader.
Outline Before You Write
If the tips above sound difficult, it is a good idea to make an outline before you start writing. In your outline jot down the main ideas you would like to cover in your essay or writing piece. When you begin to write, make sure you are getting these main ideas across. At any given time, if you are off track, delete the sentences that don’t address your point. Also, perhaps you can write reminders on your outline. For example, write in red, “DO NOT USE PASSIVE VOICE.” You can write other notes to yourself as well. After some practice, you probably won’t have to make an outline anymore. You’ll do these things naturally!
I like the common sense writing and career advice Katheryn provides here. Tweet 111 in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “Become a clear, concise writer. Make your writing easy to read and understand. Use simple, straightforward language. Tweet 113 says, “Write clearly and simply: short words and sentences, active voice. Be precise in your choice of words.” Katheryn reinforces the career advice in both of these tweets in her guest post.
The common sense career success coach point here is simple. Follow the career advice in Tweets 111 and 113 in Success Tweets. “Become a clear, concise writer. Make your writing easy to read and understand. Use simple, straightforward language…Write clearly and simply: short words and sentences, first person, active voice. Be precise in your choice of words.” Writing is not difficult if you write in a manner that communicates well. In general, this means being clear, concise and easily readable. Use short sentences and the smallest word that communicates exactly what you want to say. Write with your reader in mind. Read your writing aloud before sending it. This will help you get a feel for what your reader will experience. Reading what you write is the key to following this career advice. When you read your writing, look for words that you can eliminate and for ways to use the active, rather than passive voice. If you put these common sense pieces of career advice to work, your writing will improve greatly.
That’s my career advice on good business writing. Thanks to Katheryn Rivas for her thoughts. What are your thoughts on this? Please take a minute to share them with us in a comment. As always, thanks for reading my musings on life and career success. I really appreciate you.