How to Write for Personal Success

In today’s Twitter world where thoughts must be truncated to 140 characters or less, I get concerned writing is becoming a lost art. I’m concerned because I see writing as a process that helps shape and strengthen thinking. If we lose sight of the process and rely primarily on Tweets and email to communicate, then I believe we will dramatically decrease the probability of initiative success. More in-market failures will drive up operational costs and generally reduce your organization’s competitiveness.

Writing is a Process

Writing is a learned skill. It is something that requires purposeful practice to get good at. It is also a skill that can be continually improved throughout your lifetime. The better writer you become, the better communicator you will be. That means more of your ideas will be considered and acted upon.

The process of writing doesn’t start with putting words on paper (or typing them into your word processor). Effective writing required planning and research. And the process doesn’t end with your first draft. Rewriting a piece of communication to ensure the message sent is relevant and effectively received is an important part of the process.

Writing also forces you to look at the world through the eyes of your reader. And this means you need to understand the information your reader wants/needs to comprehend/accept your message. The words you select set the tone and directly influence how your message is received. The way you structure your writing brings your ideas to life and opens your reader’s mind to being persuaded to your point-of-view.

If your idea is the “product”, then writing is the “packaging”. It is one way you deliver your product to your readers.

Three Phase Approach

Phase1: Pre-writing. In pre-writing, you analyze the situation and form a position. You anticipate the questions your reader will likely have and formulate answers to them. You determine how to adapt your proposal to your organization’s constraints so it can be reasonably considered.

Phase 2: Writing. To be effective in writing you need to research the subject and become familiar with what is known or hypothesized. For example, if you are authoring a recommendation to invest in push email, then you need to research push email and be able to share data/insight regarding its application. You need to organize your thoughts in a way that is easy for the reader to understand, and you need to compose your thoughts into a draft document.

Phase 3: Revising. Very few people ever get their first draft perfect. Documents need to be proofread and corrected. Complex concepts have to be simplified and extraneous “nice to know” rather than “need to know” information should be eliminated to make the document easy to comprehend. In my opinion, one major challenge is that in our education we are given credit for disclosing our thought process in our writing. That creates a habit of sharing a lot of information. But, in the “real world”, we do not get partial credit for our thought process. It is assumed we can think and the emphasis is on our conclusions rather than our journey to reach them. Proofread essay service is available now online.

Discussion

Before you even try to write, it is important to answer a simple question – Why am I writing this communication? You need to decide if your goal is to inform, to respond, request, recommend, or to document. Knowing what action you want the reader to take determines how you package (structure) the message. If you can’t select one of the three reasons, then reconsider if you should write the document at all.

Always write with your end reader in mind. This may not be the person you initially submit the document to. For example, if you are recommending an action that you know will require alignment from your Board of Directors, write it with the Board in mind rather than your CEO. Anticipate the questions your CEO may get from the Board and be certain to address them in your writing. Avoid using acronyms your Board may not be familiar with even though your CEO will understand them.

Use concise language. Select the best words for what you are trying to convey. Arrange your thoughts in a logical sequence to make it easy for your readers to follow. Be thorough, but don’t tell your reader everything you know. Tell them what they need to know, what it means (risks/benefits) and what must be done. The well know Six Journalist Questions (Who?, What?, Where?, When?, How? And Why?) is a good guide to use.

If you become a better writer, you will get more of your recommendations acted upon and will be perceived as an excellent communication (a key leadership skill).  Writing focuses your thinking and helps minimize the risk of failure.  The more often your recommendations are implemented successfully, the greater personal success you will enjoy.

What Are Your Thoughts?

How important do you feel good writing is in today’s fast paced communication world? Do you think the art of good writing is being sacrificed for speed? If yes, what are the implications? Do you have any tips for good writing or examples of bad writing (humorous would be great) that you would be willing to share as a comment to this post?

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