5 tips of How to Write Professionally2018-02-05 14:52:38 by Brad Elliott
Writing in a professional context, whether for reports, proposals or simple emails, is a sub-genre of writing, with several conventions which are simple in concept, even obvious, but very often neglected, especially when you are writing in English as a second language. We have all read emails that are contorted, full of long sentences with unclear aims, which leave you feeling tired and confused after reading, or conversely have received emails that sound like they are from a close personal friend, with inappropriate forms of address and complete abandonment of sentence structure (not in a good way).
So here are 5 tips (by no means exhaustive) on how to write effectively in a professional context. Adherence to these will help you get your message across; achieving your objective without giving your reader a headache.
- Know who you are writing to
Before thinking about what you want, think about your audience. What are their expectations? What do they want or need to know? How do you want them to react to your communication?
- Know what you want to say
Start with your objective in mind. If there was just one, key message you wanted the person reading to take home, what would it be? Write with this goal in mind. If what you have written is not related to your goal, it shouldn’t be there. This will help your written communication to be clearer and more concise.
- Use verbs
English is a verb-driven language. Verbs drive the language forward; they make it dynamic and literally focused on action, doing. In terms of effect on the reader, use of active language like this usually has a positive effect. The opposite, the use of too many nouns, can render it very difficult for the message to be understood – and often clouds language in too much jargon. For example, use to recommend rather than to make recommendations.
- Be consistent
Whatever style you have, make sure you stick to it throughout. An effective piece of writing is one you don’t notice. Consistency in style helps this. Always use the same font, italicise the same things. Use the same line spacing and layout. Stick to certain terminology; be consistent also in the language that you use, both in terms of level of formality (i.e. always be neutral-formal in a professional context) and in terms of lexical usage. Consistency in all of these things makes for a more-readable text for the target audience.
- Writing and Editing are two different processes
You get better at writing just by writing. Writing is not to be confused with editing. Write your draft first in its entirety, without making changes to your text. This makes it more likely that your key messages will be communicated. Then edit separately. Editing involves making corrections based on grammar, readability, checking for punctuation and spelling (reading aloud is good for this) as well as reviewing for points 3 & 4 above. Practising this two-step process will go a long way to making your writing easy to read, and thus more effective and professional.