No matter what you do for a living, chances are at some stage you’ll be required to produce a piece of writing – whether it be a report for your boss, a letter to a client, or a simple email to a colleague.
Sure, these may not be feature articles for National Geographic or The New York Times, but your writing will carry more authority if it’s well written and free from typographic errors.
While writing may not be everyone’s strongest skill, there are a number of simple things you can do to improve your written communication.
1. Check your spelling
Spell check is a useful tool, but don’t assume a lack of wiggly red lines means there are no spelling mistakes. Carefully read your text to ensure the right words are used in the right context.
2. Don’t forget your thesaurus
If you find you’re repeating the same words throughout your text, a thesaurus can provide synonyms to make your copy flow better and sound more professional.
3. Print your copy for proof-reading
It’s often much easier to spot mistakes on printed copy than on-screen; use a ruler to focus on each line, while jotting down amendments in red pen as you go.
4. Proof-read emails before sending them
This may seem obvious, but emails are such a quick method of communication that people often hit ‘send’ without making sure they’re free from errors, or that they’ll make sense to the recipient. Emails are no different to any other letter or brochure you would send from your office – take the time to ensure they’re right!
5. Have ‘fresh eyes’ read your copy
Often when re-reading text, we read what we THINK we’ve written, rather than what we HAVE written, making it easy to miss mistakes. A fresh set of eyes will often pick up errors. Whenever possible get someone else proof your copy or, at the very least, leave it for 2–24 hours before reviewing it yourself.
6. Keep a dictionary handy when reading
Whenever you come across an unfamiliar word, be sure to look it up. It will improve your overall vocabulary and make writing an easier task.
7. Read your copy out loud
When reading to yourself there’s a tendency to skim the words. Reading out loud makes you focus on each word, so not only is it easier to pick up mistakes, but it also gives you a better feel for how the text flows.
Got any other tips or tricks to add? I’d love to hear them.