Posted by Michelle Johanson on Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 07:15
Like it or not, your writing skills say a lot to others. People at work and those evaluating you for job openings will judge your professionalism by the way you write, so it’s important to avoid common mistakes. Here’s a checklist of writing tips that can help you convey information more effectively.
As an admin, you no doubt write many times over the course of your workday, whether you’re crafting a simple email or preparing a report for your boss. It doesn’t matter how small the project, your writing skills are critical. Just one misspelled word or misplaced character, for example, can cause others to question your attention to detail or change the meaning of your message entirely (think of the impact adding an extra zero to the budget report could have).
Displaying top-both writing skills is especially important when you're applying for a new job. First impressions matter more here than in most situations, and employers have little beyond your resume and cover letter to evaluate your written communication abilities.
No one's perfect, of course. That's why it’s smart to make the extra effort when preparing any written material.
As a professional writer and editor, I thought I’d share some of the writing tips I use every day. Here’s a checklist to double-check your writing skills any time you’re sending out a document:
- ___Make sure the point is clear. State the purpose of your written communication up-front so people understand why they should read on. For instance, “To follow up our staff meeting last week, here is a list of the tasks that need to be completed by Friday, along with the names of those assigned to each task.”
- ___Avoid getting sidetracked. Sometimes you’ll start writing and realize an unrelated issue needs to be discussed with the same audience. Try not to go astray by combining too many messages into one document. Those with great writing skills know when it’s time to put material into separate documents for greater impact.
- ___Present the order of information logically. Do your key points follow a logical sequence?
- ___Don't overwhelm readers with long paragraphs. If you’ve ever received an email that contained one very long paragraph, you know it's no fun on the receiving end. When there aren’t enough breaks in the content, it makes the message overwhelming to readers. So be sure to separate key themes into different paragraphs.
- ___Use bullets and numbering when possible. This is a great way to improve the readability of any document.
- ___Use homonyms (like they’re, their and there) correctly. No matter how strong your writing skills, it’s easy to make a mistake if you’re writing quickly. So always double-check your work before sending it out. You don’t want readers wondering how you made it past third grade.
- ___Proofread document for typos and other errors. Features like spell-check can help with proofreading, but can never replace a thorough personal review. Pay special attention to proper spelling, grammar and punctuation.
- ___Get the names right. You should also pay particular attention to names. Ericka with a ck isn’t likely to appreciate being called Erica, no matter how innocent your mistake. Features like spell-check can help with proofreading but can never replace a thorough personal review.
Sometimes, the best way to improve your writing skills is to know what not to do. Read "Resumania™" for hilarious examples of job seekers who have made unfortunate typos or grammatical goofs in their resumes and cover letters and see what you can learn from their mistakes.