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How to Become a Better Writer: 10 Steps (Good to Great)

Does your job require you to send regular emails, project
reports, proposals or other long written communications? If so, you’re not
alone. Writing is a huge part of many jobs. In fact, according the National
Association of Colleges and Employers, 8 out of 10 employers surveyed look
for written communication skills
on candidate resumes.

Good
writing skills can make you seem more credible. More importantly, learning how
to become a better writer can help you to be more effective at your job.

How to write better
Learning how to write better can add to your credibility and help your career. (Image Source)

Even
if you’re not a professional writer, you can learn how to write better. In this
article, we provide ten steps on how to become a better writer–no matter what
your job.

Step
1. Stay Calm

For
many non-writers, the request to write something may seem overwhelming. You may
even have flashbacks to school writing assignments. If you didn’t enjoy those school
assignments, you might even feel a bit of dread at the prospect of having to
write something for your job.

But
if you’re organized, you can write a professional document when asked. Most
people don’t like writing because they don’t understand how to do it well. But
panic won’t help you complete your writing assignment.

There are ways to become a better writer. Like
any other work-related task, good writing follows a process. In this article,
I’m going to share that process with you. So, whether you’re assigned to write
a report, a memo, a letter, or even just a long email–you can handle it. Just
follow these easy steps to becoming a better writer.

Step 2. Identify the Purpose of Your Writing Project

Before
you can start writing, you need to know why you’ve been assigned to write
something. In other words, what is the purpose of your writing? To discover the
purpose for your writing project, ask this question: what is this for?

Here are some of the most common purposes behind work
assignments:

  • Inform.
    Informational writing is very common in most businesses. Many reports fit into
    this category as well as some memos. A subset of this type of writing is
    instructional writing, which is used for employee manuals and other training
    documents. 

  • Persuade.
    With this type of writing, you are trying to change the reader’s mind. The most
    obvious use of persuasive writing in business is in sales proposals. But you
    may also need it when dealing with an upset customer or coworker.
  • Describe.
    Descriptive writing simply states what is (or in some cases, what will be).
    It’s used for inventory reports or property descriptions. It can also be used in
    engineering specs or any of projects that require you to describe
    something.
  • Entertain.
    Although you may think that entertainment is not a purpose of business writing,
    sometimes it’s helpful to add an element of entertainment through humor or
    storytelling. If you are writing a speech, for example, you may want it to have
    some entertainment value.

To
give some concrete examples, you may have been assigned to write a project
proposal to get funding for an upcoming project. This assignment will likely
involve some persuasive writing. Or, your manager may have asked for an email
summary of your current project. The email summary is likely to involve
informative writing.

Sometimes
the purpose of your writing will be obvious. But other times you may need to
ask. Once you understand why you need to write what you’re going to write,
you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Step
3. Gather Information

For
your writing to be good, it needs to accurate. In most cases, that requires
knowledge or research. To start, make a list of everything you know about the
topic you’ve been assigned. If you don’t know something, but believe it should
be part of your writing assignment include it on the list with a question mark
next to it.

If
you need any illustrations or photos for your writing assignment, it’s a good
idea to locate those at this time. In some cases, you may need to arrange for a
photo to be made or an illustration to be created. Also, if your writing must
be approved by your company’s technical team or legal department, give those
areas a heads up that your project is coming.

Next,
go through the list you created and research the missing information (the items
with the question marks). In many cases, the information may be available
within your company. Don’t be afraid to ask someone for information you don’t
have.

If
the information isn’t readily available, you may need to conduct your own
research. If the missing information requires a lot of additional work on your
part, ask your manager or the person who assigned the writing project to you
whether they think that information is really needed for this assignment.

Step
4. Organize Your Information

Now
that you’ve gathered the information that’s relevant to your writing project,
it’s time to start narrowing it down. Stay focused as you decide what you need
and don’t need.

It
can help to put the information in a rough order based on what is most
important to the person who will be receiving your written document or email. Weed
out any pieces of information that aren’t directly related to your writing
assignment–but don’t discard them entirely. That extra information can come in
handy if someone has additional questions after you turn your assignment in or
if your boss assigns you a follow up project.

For
example, if you’re working on a project proposal you definitely want to include
information that explains why the project is important. If you’ve got information
on the history of the project, that’s probably less relevant to your proposal.

Step
5. Create an Outline

Due
to school assignments where complex outlines were assigned that had to have
Roman numerals and required thesis statements, many people have grown to hate
outlines. Don’t worry. This outline isn’t one of those.

For
this brief outline include an introduction, at least two or three main supporting
points about the subject you’re covering, and a conclusion. Add the title for
your writing project, and you’re basically done with your outline. See, that
wasn’t hard!

Make
sure your introduction is powerful–it’s the first thing your reader well see when they open up your document.
Likewise, spend some extra time on your conclusion since it’s the last thing
they will read. Plus, your conclusion should include a call-to-action that
tells the reader what to do next if you’re writing a persuasive piece.

Remember,
this isn’t school. You’re not going to turn this outline in. The outline is to
help you get organized, so you’re the only one it needs to make sense to.

Step
6. Write the Document

With
all of your preparation complete, it’s just a matter of filling out your
outline with the information you gathered earlier. Keep the purpose of your
writing in mind as you write.

In
most cases, you’ll want to use active voice for your professional writing
project. It’s easier for most people to read. If you’re writing a persuasive
document (see Step 2) such as a sales letter or proposal, you’ll want to
include some selling words in your writing. And don’t forget to ask for the
sale in your call to action.

If
your business has a style guide for written communications, also keep those
requirements in mind as you write. If there’s no style guide, take a look at the
style used in similar communications to get an idea of the writing style that’s
acceptable for your writing. For example, if you’re writing an email listing
your current projects you could ask a colleague whether they’ve written a
similar email and if they’d be willing to show it to you.

Step
7. Review the Material Carefully

Once
you’ve got a draft written, you may think you’re done. But delivering or
sending your writing assignment while it’s still full of mistakes can make you
look less than professional. Review your document carefully to make sure there
are no errors.

Start by using your writing tool’s spelling and grammar
checker, but don’t rely entirely on those. Spelling and grammar checkers can
miss many types of common mistakes. So, you’ll want to read over your draft
carefully and thoughtfully. If you’ve got a friend or colleague, it can be a
good idea to ask them to read and look for mistakes.

If
someone needs to approve your draft, they may want to see it once you’ve
finished checking your document. A thorough review of your writing can mean the
difference between good writing and great writing.

Step
8. Add Pictures and a Template

How your document looks can affect how your reader reacts.
For longer writing projects, especially, you’ll want to use a professional
template to make sure your document conveys the right impression. And whether
you’re writing for your boss or for a customer, that first impression is
important.

Also, if you have illustrations or photographs
you can also add those at this stage. To get an idea of the difference a
professional template can make, take a look at these articles with sample report and proposal templates: 

As
you can see, a professional template can pull together your writing assignment
and give it an attractive, cohesive look. Fortunately, there are many high-quality
templates available. For example, you’ll find hundreds of high-quality proposal
templates available at Envato Elements and  GraphicRiver.

Step
9. Consider First Impressions

When
it comes to first impressions, how your document looks when it’s received is
also important. Consider those first impressions before you send out your writing project.

If your writing project was an email, make sure it has a good
subject line
.  A good subject line
describes what the email is about without being too vague. At the same time,
your email subject line should be short and to the point.

If you’re
writing a longer document and you’re going to mail it, examine the packaging.
If possible, your writing project should be mailed in an envelope or box with the company logo on
it. Also, there should be a report cover and a cover letter explaining
what the document is for.

Step
10. Send the Document

Depending on the type of writing project you’ve been working
on you just spent anywhere from a few hours to a few days writing it. But the
extra effort has been worth it because your writing piece is not just good,
it’s great. Now you’re ready to send the document.

Double-check your delivery information to make sure that it
gets to the right person. For a printed document, that information is likely a
physical address. For an email, make sure you send it to the right email
address.

If
you don’t hear back from the recipient, it’s okay to follow up with them in a few days to
make sure they received it. You can also offer to answer any questions that
they have.

Learn
More

Here
are Envato Tuts+, we have plenty of resources to help you improve your writing
skills. Many of our tutorials apply to specific types of writing that you may
be required to do. Here are just a few of our writing tutorials you may want to
explore:

Conclusion

Even
if you don’t have a writing background, you can learn how to get better at
writing. The steps in this article will help you learn how to be a better
writer no matter what your profession. Good luck with your next writing
assignment!