Handy Checklist for Better Writing At Work
Have you ever questioned your English writing skills, especially at work? If your answer is yes, then you are not alone. Writing in any language can be quite an arduous and challenging task for many people. For example, it is not uncommon to question whether your grammar is correct or the tone is right.
Some people who seek to improve their English often believe that the problem lies with their spoken English and not their writing. However, after doing some checking, I have found that this is not usually the case.
At Immerse, we have identified this need to write better and as a result have put together a ‘Better Writing Workshop’ to give and share good writing tips. The following gives a preview of some of the areas that will be covered:
Don’t always write the way you speak!
One very common mistake is to write something based on how you would say it. The problem here is that we often use non-standard English in informal conversations and speak in fragments as we usually think on our feet and change what we want to say mid-sentence. A good example of this is as follows:
Choose the best way to send your message.
You should always think carefully about selecting the most efficient way to send your message, especially at work. For example, if it is to arrange an informal meeting over lunch, then a simple text message will suffice.
However, if it is going to involve announcing management decisions, then a detailed email with bullet points will be more appropriate.
For discussions such as progress updates or providing feedback, a short email (which can take the form of text messages) or in-person visits will be sufficient.
Get the level of formality right.
This is another common problem that I have often encountered. A student once asked me to check an email that she was planning to send out. It was written in a very formal style, using a lot of outdated phrases that she had been taught at school. When I asked her who she was planning to send it to, she said her boss. Considering that she had known her boss for over six years and was on familiar terms with him, a short friendly to the point informal style would have been more natural and appropriate here. She would have basically been copying the level of formality and tone that she used when speaking to him in his office.
Try not to use confusing jargon or high language.
Many schools in Hong Kong try to encourage their students to use high language or ‘big’ words. Unfortunately, in the wrong context, these can sound very unnatural and even weird. Therefore, it is always best to follow the age-old mantra that you should always write to express and not impress. Try to use plain and simple English and only use industry jargon that your audience is familiar with. One example from the financial industry would be as follows:
Make it easy for your audience to read.
In today’s busy work environment, people often have a lot of emails, texts and documents to read. Therefore, it can be very frustrating trying to find the main points of a message. You can help your audience by presenting your message in such a way that they can quickly scan it and find the main points. Bullet points, for example, are an excellent way of doing this.
When writing, imagine you are talking to your reader.
This is one of my main writing tips because it can really help you to express yourself better. I often get my students to explain directly to me something that they have put in writing that doesn’t seem to make much sense. They soon realize that once they start using personal pronouns such as you and I and give direct instructions, their writing becomes a lot clearer – and easier. However, the only caveat here is that, as mentioned in my first tip, if you need to write something in a formal style, you should make sure you are using standard English. Which brings me conveniently onto my next tip …
Get your grammar right!
It is worth putting the time and effort into brushing up your grammar if you feel that your level is not high enough. You can use apps such as Grammarly, but at the end of the day if you learn it yourself, you will find it will give you a huge boost to your confidence and writing skills.
Read it out loud.
This is a great way to check not only for any grammatical mistakes or typos but also whether it sounds natural or not. If it is a really important letter or document, for example, you can also get someone to proofread it.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog and found my tips helpful. Learning the right techniques and practicing is the best way to improve any skill. Therefore, if you feel your writing skills need improving, just dropping us a line to learn more about our writing workshops and courses.