Posted January 21, 2020
Modern employers demand soft skills like strong communication and critical thinking abilities. Inc Magazine has reported on a National Association of Colleges and Employers survey that found three-quarters (73.4%) of employers "want a candidate with strong written communication skills." Unfortunately, they're not finding them. Over half (58%) of hiring managers struggle to find employees with soft skills like these. So, what can businesses and their employees do to strengthen their ability to communicate through the written word? Here are five strategies you can employ to become a better writer.
Author Ray Bradbury once said, "Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you're doomed." This makes sense: mastering any skill requires practice. Too many business professionals treat writing as a task to complete only when necessary, but the only way to strengthen the writing muscle is to write repeatedly. Write as a matter of routine, ideally every day.
Reading can improve writing skills. But to do so, it's key to read actively and critically. Consume the same kind of materials that you need to write – like reports, articles, and correspondence – and evaluate the quality. What works? What doesn’t? Why? What’s unclear or confusing? What’s unpersuasive? What’s compelling? Are you left with questions? Think about how you would have approached each document. You can learn a lot – and improve your own writing – by critically assessing work from other writers.
Novelist Rachel Aaron, author of 2,000 to 10,000 – a book about how she increased her productivity from 2,000 words a day to 10,000 – says that a key element of her improvement was to “know what you’re writing before you write it.” Indeed, for many professional writers, the bulk of their work happens before they start drafting. If nothing else, take a few minutes to brainstorm or create a rough outline of your document. Think about your intended audience and goal. Even just a few minutes of preparation can improve the end result.
This may sound like a counterintuitive suggestion, but often the best way to improve a written work is to cut it to pieces. Most people are unnecessarily wordy (writing "due to the fact that" instead of "because"), write more than necessary, which we call “over-writing” (providing too much background or context), and overuse language that weakens the document (like excessive adverbs). In short, most documents can be strengthened by tightening them.
Improve your technical skills through professional instruction. Experienced trainers can make a world of difference in helping business people improve their writing skills. Hands-on and interactive instruction can give writers real-world practice with immediate feedback, while online webinars and virtual training options make instruction readily available from anywhere. In short, there is no substitute for professional instruction in becoming a better writer.
About Hurley Write, Inc.
Hurley Write, Inc., a certified women-owned small business (WBENC and WOSB), Historically Underutilized (HUB), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), has been designing and teaching customized onsite and online technical, business, and scientific writing courses for over 30 years. We also develop and teach specialty courses, such as how to write proposals and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and deviation and investigation reports, and how to prepare and give great presentations. Links: Rachel Aaron professional website, internal