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7 Golden Rules of Writing and Editing: A Non-grammar-focused Guide to Irresistible Writing

7 Golden Rules of Writing and Editing: A Non-grammar-focused Guide to Irresistible Writing
    Photo by jjpacres' on flickr

    For the longest time, I was too scared to publish anything on my blog.

    I had the debilitating fear of making a mistake – a simple error. What if somebody catches my mistake, corrects it and lets the world know? I would agonize over this problem. I thought my credibility as a Business Writer would be shot to pieces.

    When you write, you constantly feel the pressure of mastering the art of using commas. You are required to understand the difference between a colon and a semi one, the misplaced modifier, and the rules on splitting the infinitive. Really, who has a brain to for that? Not me, for sure.

    Do we really need to go back to school and learn grammar and punctuation all over again? Do we really need to take writing classes to understand the basics of forming intelligent sentences?

    No and no. You need to do these things but you don’t necessarily have to go back to a classroom setting.

    Here is a list of 7 rules that will help you to revise and edit your work painlessly – or at least with the least amount of it.

    1. Make a good first impression

    What is the most interesting bit or angle about your writing? Clue the reader in early and don’t bury the introduction in the body of the text.

    If you lose your reader at this stage, there is no point to your writing. You might as well stop wasting your time as well as the reader’s.

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    2. Write to express, not to impress

    Why is it that you are writing, again? Is it to make a point or to show off your literary prowess?

    Always write so that everything is clearly understood.

    Use simple words. Use the first word that comes to your mind as that will often work best.

    Don’t look up fancy words in thesaurus as you go – write naturally. The only way you can get a better understanding of language is through your reading habit. Read more to increase your vocabulary organically.

    Avoid clichés and jargon. Think outside the box.

    3. Be specific – it won’t kill you

    Use short sentences. Use clear sentences. Pay attention to structure and craft sentences that inform or even entertain your readers.

    Use short paragraphs. Connect them in a logical, seamless flow. For every new idea you explore, start a new one.

    Write in the active voice – this will make the most difference to your writing.

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    In active voice, the subject performs the action – it is the most direct, straightforward way to write.

    “The dog chased by the boy.” This is passive.

    “The boy chased the dog.” This more direct. Remember to use active voice whenever possible. Passive voice is usually slow and boring, and often doesn’t fully convey the message.

    Often, the sentence becomes shorter as well. Writing in the active voice will make it much easier for you to stick to the text guidelines.

    Try using strong verbs for action, be bold.

    “She did the crime so she could pay for the jewellery.” Weak.

    “She stole from her Mum so she could splurge on the jewellery.” Much better.

    4. Reign over pesky punctuation and grim grammar

    Make sure full stops, commas, apostrophes and dashes are in their proper places. Do the best you can and then move on.

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    Check for spelling and grammar. Remember to use spell check as well as your eyes.

    Read for style. Make sure it is consistent throughout.

    5. If in doubt, leave it out

    Is there anything that really worries you? It’s much better to take it out now than to have regrets later.

    Brevity is the secret of good writing. Do not waste words, do tight editing where every word means something. Avoid unnecessary words.

    As Stephen King has said famously (and not famously said – remember not to split the infinitive),

    Kill your darlings.

    Do not get attached to your sentences.

    Edit, edit, edit. Anything that doesn’t make sense, anything that doesn’t sound right to your ears; kill it. Go on, be brave and kill your darlings now.

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    6. Pay attention to the boring bits

    Do attribute all quotations and allegations to someone. Check that the text does not defame anyone or breach copyright.

    Make sure the length of your copy is appropriate. If you need to cut, cut from the bottom. That usually works well.

    When you are satisfied you have edited the copy to the highest standard, read it again.

    7. The Final Read – One More Time

    You must become a tough editor of all text, even if it takes significant time and effort. Check and check again to see your basic ingredients are correct.

    Read aloud – one last time.

    While fear of imperfection should not stop you from writing, not educating yourself is not good enough of an excuse.

    Learn, write and most of all, have fun along the way. You will find many people supporting you, because they themselves have been caught in the act, in this case, publishing their work with a typo.

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    Marya Jan

    Facebook Ad Strategist

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    Last Updated on April 11, 2019

    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

    I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

    I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

    Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

    How Communication Skills Help Your Success

    Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

    Create a Positive Experience

    Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

    When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

    What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

    Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

    As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

    Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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    Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

    Help Leadership Skills

    It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

    Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

    As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

    Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

    If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

    Build Better Teams

    Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

    In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

    If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

    When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

    Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

    Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

    1. Listen

    Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

    Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

    People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

    Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

    Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

    2. Know Your Audience

    Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

    Here is a good way to think about it:

    Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

    You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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    3. Minimize

    I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

    He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

    Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

    State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

    The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

    4. Over Communicate

    So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

    What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

    Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

    Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

    Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

    There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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    5. Body Language

    The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

    When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

    In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

    When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

    Conclusion

    Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

    Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

    There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

    Now go communicate your way to success.

    More Resources About Effective Communication

    Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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