Brush up on Your Writing Skills in 2018

For some of us, it’s been a while since our last English class. Maybe you’re not writing book reports or research papers in your day-to-day work life, however, you probably are writing creative pitches, emails, and client responses. When working on these tasks, specificity is a way that can make your writing pop–though we know being descriptive is not always easy.

One way to really hone in on your writing skills is to avoid “abstractions.” By this, we don’t mean vague ideas. Rather, the dictionary defines writing abstractions as, “a term that is applied to ideas that are philosophical and emotional, not concrete or tangible, yet the idea comes from experience. Examples: truth, liberty, freedom.” What does this mean for you as someone who might not be writing in an academic setting? Well, it means that when you are writing, you should try avoiding words that have multiple meanings. For example, “truth” may mean something entirely different to you than it does to your neighboring coworker and, therefore, your use of this word isn’t as particular as you may want it to be.

When you are writing something you are describing, and your goal is specificity, one strategy you can do is to write a draft and then highlight your abstractions in order to find a way around these words themselves. For example, if you write, “My work promotes diversity,” one way that you can specify this even further is to give an example after the word “diversity.” Or you could try rewriting this abstraction in general to fit the needs of what you are describing.

Another way that you can improve your writing for lengthier projects is to expose your writing. By this, we mean that you can read your work out loud after writing it because it can easily skip over mistakes if your eyes are simply glancing over your sentences on a screen. You could share your writing with a coworker and agree to look at their writing when needed in return for important deadlines or high-stakes material (because doing this for every email would be overkill). Even though this may take more time out of your day, by having a second pair of fresh eyes on your prose, you could get a second opinion and be reassured that what you are describing in writing is getting across (not to mention you can avoid grammatical errors and misspellings too).

Finally, one last strategy you can apply to strengthen your writing skills is to cut any unnecessary language. For example, often times people will write more to be descriptive, but sometimes you can say the same thing in fewer words, which will ultimately make your writing crisper and more direct. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Read your writing through critical eyes, and make sure that each word works toward your larger point. Cut every unnecessary word or sentence. There’s no need to say ‘general consensus of opinion,’ for instance when ‘consensus’ will do.”

Avoiding abstractions, sharing your writing, and being frugal with your language is no easy feat, but with some practice, you’ll notice your writing will strengthen over time.

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