Writing skills


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Writing skills

  1. 1. Writing Skills
  2. 2. Basics• Good writing is writing that works - It is clear at first reading - It demands no further explanation - Always a result of hard work: there is no help from tone or gesture; with the force of your personality• Anything we write must act on our behalf• Words on paper can be fixed and unchangeable - The written word can have an objectivity that can be threatening
  3. 3. Basics• “I do not know what to include or what to leave out.”• This problem usually arises because: - We have not thought clearly about the message we want to send - We are not thinking about the reader; only the information we want to put down - We may be more concerned about what will look impressive - We may not be able to concentrate on the job in hand• The result of all this is: - muddled thinking; a muddled structure; language that goes out of control.
  4. 4. Basics• Two golden rules to bear in mind: - Think of the reader (all writing should focus on the reader before the material is included) - Separate thinking from writing ( put thoughts in order before beginning, and take time afterwards to think about what was written)• “I know what I want to say, but I can’t put it down” - Write as you speak - Your text can be improved later• We must allow time to prepare, and time to check: that way our text will be right the first time the reader sees it.
  5. 5. Basics• A systematic approach to writing has three basic stages:- Preparation and planning- Writing- Checking
  6. 6. Preparation• Ask a series of basic questions: What, When, Where, Why, Who, How• What is the purpose of the document• Never write without a reader in mind• Take responsibility for the writing• Location, to write with few distractions• Establish clear guidelines• Write when mind is the clearest• Gather material, compile and fit
  7. 7. Writing• Produce first draft: - Don’t think hard; try to let the words flow on to the page• Write fast, stick to plan• Write as you speak
  8. 8. Checking• Good writing comes from re-writing: - Analyze thoroughly what we have written and create a test that is correct, clear and appropriate – for our purpose and the reader• Develop skill to read own writing, critically, as if someone else has written it• Try to allow some time between finishing the draft and beginning check - The longer the better; provides objectivity• No final version; endless process limited by time; however don’t lose the original thoughts by too many corrections• A systematic approach will help
  9. 9. A 10 point writing plan• Rewriting is often a matter of changing lots of little things than a few big ones:- Paragraphs- Long sentences- Subject & verb- Sentence landscape- Passive and active verbs- Adjectives and Adverbs- Accuracy- Brevity- Clarity- Spelling and punctuation
  10. 10. Paragraphs• They may have more than one sentence, however only one theme• Each page of the document must have more than 2 paragraphs; the more the better• Break long paragraphs into shorter sections using sub- headings, numbers or lists – be consistent in layout• Open each paragraph with a short, summarizing topic sentence – possible to take the gist and speed read the rest• Use link words and phrases to guide the reader between one paragraph and the next: e.g. however …, moreover….’ as a result…., in addition…., in contrast…., and so on
  11. 11. Long sentences• A sentence is a group of words that make sense by itself – begins with a capital letter and ends with a full stop.• Short sentences are easier to read – a sentence of more than 25 words will probably not be understood at first reading• Sentences tend to grow out of control because we try to cram too many ideas into them – separate thought from writing• Use shortest sentences in the most prominent position – bigger the idea, shorter the sentence to express it• Search long sentences. Rewrite it: list the ideas; use separate sentence to each idea; connect into prose, use link words; check language of rewritten text
  12. 12. Subject & Verb• Every sentence must have a subject (noun).• It must have a main verb, which describes what the subject is or does• The verb must agree with the subject (singular or plural)• And, it must be finite, having tense (past, present, future)• If in doubt ask:- What do you want the sentence to be about? Put this at the beginning as a subject.- What is the subject doing? Put this second- Put nothing between the subject and the verb• Now rewrite the sentence from here.
  13. 13. Sentence Landscape• We normally don’t read one word at a time• Eye scans in groups of about five words, searching through the sentence for the full stop which tells it to pause.• Put most important matter in the beginning and end of a sentence where the attention is the greatest – ideas buried in the middle will get lost.• Try to break long sentences into manageable ‘chunks’ of 5 to 10 words.
  14. 14. Passive & Active verbs• Beware of writing impersonally: e.g. Passive: Arrangements have been made …. Active: I have made arrangements ….. Passive: Measurements have been taken …. Active: The team took measurements …..• Passive voice lacks the personal tone, the mark of good personal relations - Can fail to allocate responsibility for action taken
  15. 15. Adjectives & Adverbs• Adjectives describes nouns – quick, yellow, round,etc.• Adverbs describe verbs – quickly, brightly, early, etc. - sometimes describe adjectives – quite fast, rather hot• Go through text, identify adjectives and adverbs - Take them out and see what are absolutely necessary
  16. 16. Accuracy• Use the right word for the right job -- synonyms• Use jargon in its rightful place: - between experts - or give an explanation
  17. 17. Brevity• Use short words rather than long ones• Eliminate meaningless cliches – as such, by and large, needless to say, etc.• Watch out for toutology: Why say the same thing twice? e.g. enclosed herewith, the true facts are, he declined to accept the offer
  18. 18. Clarity• Remember, we are not there to explain what we have written - the text must leave no room for ambiguity• Vague phrases can arouse suspicion – in the region of; in the area of; around about - are we covering up something unpleasant, or hiding our ignorance?• Big threat to clarity are abstract nouns – can be replaced by the verbs from which they derive.e.g. 1. There are regulations for the avoidance of accidents; replace by: The rules help us avoid accidents 2. Your entitlement to a refund is unaffected; replace by: You are entitled to a refund
  19. 19. Spelling• Spelling matters, contributes to our public and professional image• There are ways of improving – if you are determined• Think before you write. Clear thoughts make for clear writing• Use the simpler, shorter word rather than the longer, complicated one. Always.• Don’t use any words unfamiliar to you – more likely to spell correctly words familiar to you• Make a point of looking up new words in a dictionary and becoming acquainted with them.• If in doubt: write it down quickly – first guess are often correct; dictionary on WP not adequate; spell checker cannot distinguish between ‘there’ and ‘their’
  20. 20. Punctuation• Punctuations do for the written word what gesture, pausing and tone of voice do for speech. - It signals to the reader how to read the passage• Keep it simple – the less punctuations the better• Read your text aloud, checking that the punctuation does what it should. - Remove any unnecessary punctuation; add only when you are convinced you should• Never use any punctuation without being sure of its use• Check the finer points of punctuation in a guide to usage
  21. 21. Letter Writing• A letter is a piece of conversation by post:- It expresses a relationship: between friends, colleagues, strangers- The nature of the relationship dictates the nature of the letter• A business letter is: precise, straightforward, relevant to reader’s needs and action oriented• It shows respect for the reader and points the way ahead – clearly saying what happens next.• Preparation: time spent now, before putting pen to paper, is time saved later – both for the writer and the reader
  22. 22. Letter Writing• The letter purpose:- To sell or persuade- To make an enquiry- To answer a question- To complain- To answer a complaint- To get something done- To create a good impression of you and the organization• If there is more than one purpose, pick the most important and stick to it• A letter which tries to do too much will fail to do anything• Every letter is a free advertisement
  23. 23. Reader• What we put in and leave out will depend on our relationship with our reader• Exact name! Find out• Right person? Take action• Needs and wants• Situation story and history• Knowledge about subject matter• Letter has more than one reader?
  24. 24. Who? When? Where?• Am I the right person to write?• Writer has authority to sign: or collaborate on style with the signatory• Realistic time for delivery and reply• Reader’s schedule and deadlines important• Make sure the address is accurate complete and up to date
  25. 25. Planning• The action point of the letter is whatever needs to be done to fulfill the letter’s purpose- What action is required? By whom? When?- What information is relevant to action point?- What does the reader already know?- What do I know? What else do I need to know?- Plan for getting the information – each group of items will form the basis for a paragraph
  26. 26. Letter Structure• Salutation: name if known• Heading: from the statement of purpose – make it short• Introduction:- Acknowledge of previous communication- Who the writer is – job title- Why you are writing• Body:- Ensure all material is relevant and logically ordered- Use bullet points for listing• Action point – indicate and put into its own paragraph• Concluding remarks – polite and genuine• The complimentary close and signature
  27. 27. Layout• However well written, a letter with a poor layout will fail at the first hurdle
  28. 28. Writing• Once the purpose and structure is clear, the writing itself becomes much easier• There is no “Business English” – only good English• Formality of a letter lies in its structure and a few basic conventions• Language should be close to the spoken word• Your letter, if read aloud, should have the sound of your voice
  29. 29. Tone• Difficult to define. Three elements:1. Be positive: Always say what you will do, not what you can’t e.g. –ve: We cannot supply the goods before October +ve: We will send the good on October 1st.2. Be definitive: Don’t promise what you can’t deliver e.g. –ve: I will try to hold the tickets for you +ve: I will hold the tickets for 3 days3. Be sincere: Generate the feeling appropriate for your purpose - Should not be interpreted as a personal attack e.g. –ve:Your failure to reply …. +ve: Please reply by week end
  30. 30. Final check• Before the letter slips into the envelope:- Does it look good, interesting to read?- Does it give a good impression of you and your organization?- Does it achieve its objectives?- Is the action point clear?- Is the information accurate, relevant, logically ordered and complete?- Is the layout correct?- Is the heading brief but specific?- Are the paragraphs of manageable length?
  31. 31. Final check (contd.)- Are there any sentences of 25 words or more?- Is the language accurate, brief and clear?- Is the salutation and close correct?- Are all relevant enclosures included?- What about grammar, spelling and punctuation?
  32. 32. Inter office memo• Four items always appear in a memo:- Name of the addressee(s)- Name of the originator- Date of the memo- Subject of the memo• When the memo is sent to several people, replace individual names with a distribution list – list recipient names below the last line of the message• Do not use job titles in the memo• Use a descriptive subject line
  33. 33. Writing the memo• Determine the purpose• Prepare a writing plan• Write the first draft• Write the final copy.• The opening: most imp part of the memo, incl conclusions and recommendations, belong in the first sentence of the paragraph• The main message: the succeeding paragraphs support the imp info already conveyed in the first paragraph - only pertinent info is incl; no nice-to-know info - Use listing if appropriate, is more readable• The closing: the best memo closing may be none; eliminate unnecessary closings
  34. 34. Easy Reading• Make it easy for the reader to read – or the dust bin• Use white space creatively – more inviting to the eye• People skim read – no time or patience• Double indent lists• Have space between paragraphs• Use bold face type for emphasis; use them sparingly• Use bullets liberally: easily read and not missed• Use an appendix for support information• Good penmanship is a quality job skill:- gives a human feeling- Should be legible: people may not come back for clarification
  35. 35. Writing TipsTerrible writing is easy to spot; usually based on:- Foggy ideas no one can understand- Big words, even though little ones will do- Long twisted sentences covering may subjects- Using jargons, slangs, abbreviations known only to the writer- Vague words and statements that sound impressive but mean nothing- Arrogant style- Boring content- Complete disregard for the reader• When writing, no feedback to obtain correct answer. What you write has to stand on its own
  36. 36. Guidelines for good writing• Writing is not a God given talent, demands hard work• Write with the reader in mind: be considerate, friendly, interested, clear – “would I want to read this?”• Focus your work: Decide topic in advance, what you want to happen, and ensure that everything you write supports your message.• Be simple and short and very direct• Use headings and sub-headings in long reports• Use bullets to indicate points; however be consistent; if starting with action verbs continue till end.• Take out every ‘that’ and ‘which’ you can• Avoid boring, overused words -- cliches
  37. 37. Good Writing (contd.)• If you have trouble writing in simple words, explain to your co- worker / spouse and write what you spoke• If you get tangled in the middle of a sentence, break it into two• If a paragraph is bigger than a quarter of a page, break it into two – visually short paragraphs easier to wade through• Get the message in the first paragraph – helps the reader understand your point quickly• Don’t waste time on the perfect opening, or perfect way to say something: for the first draft write what comes in your mind. - point is to get started, act of writing generates ideas• Break a long report into sections• Just write, practice, read other good writers has written