5 Quick Tips to Help You Write Well
Research has shown that we make distinct judgements about people based on their writing, irrespective of the platform or communication channel.
Of course, we all have understandable slips, and not every email or message needs to be gilded with perfect grammar.
Even so, good, clear writing is always worth aiming for, and can help create an immediate impression.
With this in mind, Dr Ciarán Kavanagh and Dr Jennifer Browne from Prime UCC’s Proposal Development team have put together five quick tips to help people brush up on their i-dotting and t-crossing.
#1 Know Your Audience
When you know your audience, you can make active decisions about how to best communicate with them.
The bullet-pointed precision of an email, for example, isn’t going to titillate in a novel, just as paragraph-long sentences aren’t going to be welcome in an email.
If you are writing professional or technical content, understand the information that your audience wants.
#2 Front-Load Your Information
In professional communication, load the most important message at the front.
When your audience is looking for answers, deliver them immediately to grab their attention from the get-go.
This is especially true for screen-based communication, where readers go hunting for key points before deciding if the rest of the text is worth reading.
Remember, while the devil might be in the detail, our attention is fixated on the first line.
#3 Keep it Simple
While a mastery of commas and colons can impress, short and simple sentences get the point across.
If you’re a multi-line sentence spreader, you need to cut out unnecessary words by splitting up sentences and simplify any multisyllabics – you know, those overly long words that we shouldn’t be using here.
Tip: Paste your piece into Hemmingwayapp.com for a quick insight into your writing’s current reading level, and for some tips on how to make it more accessible.
#4 Create a Personal Proofreading Checklist
Outside of the usual suspects of its and it’s and the your, you’re and your triplet, we all tend to have a few signature slipups.
Whether it’s an overused word or the second t in committee, a personal proofreading checklist can both speed up a final readthrough and help to eliminate eye-catching errors.
For your final checks, put CTRL-F to good use in the hunt for mistakes. And remember, use spellcheck and autocorrect, but never trust them. Spellcheck won’t see the problems with “a manure woman refusing to rise to the bate.”
Tip: Change the font type and size for your final readthrough. It helps you to see mistakes that you’ve passed over before. Reading the text aloud can also help you spot errors.
#5 Ask a Human
No writing rule or spellcheck software can replace a second set of eyes. When possible, give yourself enough pre-deadline time to have a colleague look over your writing.
This is particularly helpful with longer documents that you have read over and over again. The sentence that is perfectly clear to you may be a head-scratcher for everyone else.