Our guide to becoming a better business writer

how to write, writing tips, business writing, professional“You learn to write by writing. It’s a truism, but what makes it a truism is that it’s true.” – William Zinsser, On Writing Well

The sad news is that there are no shortcuts to writing well. But we can let you in on a little secret: the best way to learn to write is to practice. You simply need to write.

While practice might be the cornerstone of learning to write well, there are some other simple ways you can improve your skills:

1. Read.

Pay as much attention as you can to how other people write. That means looking closely anything at all you’re reading – newspapers, books, advertisements, work emails, whatever – to figure out how it’s constructed, what words the author chooses and what makes it work.

2. Be a critic of all writing.

Apply a critical eye to your own and others’ writing. You will learn as much from bad writing as you will from good writing and it’s an important skill to be able to tell the difference between the two. It’s just as valuable to ask why something doesn’t work, as to ask why it does.

3. Imitate other writers.

Imitation is not only the highest form of flattery, it’s also good writing practice and a great way to find your own voice. Don’t be afraid to find writing that you admire and copy it. Copywriting legend and ad man David Ogilvy said he learned his craft by shamelessly copying other people’s work.

And as surrealist artist Salvador Dali famously said, “those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.”

4. Invite criticism of your own work.

If you want to talk to an audience, your audience needs to understand what you’re saying. So try to get your friends, colleagues, whoever, to read your writing and ask them whether it makes sense. It’s not their fault if they can’t understand it. It’s probably yours.

5. Keep up to date, keep informed.

Think of your practice of writing in the same way you would think of your career: as an ongoing search for knowledge. Don’t rely on old things you learnt in primary school, or wing it. As writing expert Bryan Garner argues, “if [lawyers] did this with legal questions, it would be prima facie legal malpractice. In writing, it’s literary malpractice.”

6. Keep writing.

As the quote above from one of our writing heroes, American author, editor and critic, William Zinsser, succinctly says, you simply need to write. You learn to write by writing.

Sounds obvious, but it’s true.

Contact us today to find out how we can help your business engage audiences through better writing.

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