10 Ways to Improve Your Professional Writing – and Your Promotion Prospects

A couple of weeks ago, I featured a guest post from Kay Hutchings-Olsson on business writing.  That post was so well received that I asked Kay to send another one my way.  Here’s what she came up with.  Enjoy — and learn…

10 Ways to Improve Your Professional Writing – and Your Promotion Prospects

Do you feel your writing skills are holding you back in your career? Do you dread having to write important documents like reports, presentations, proposals, articles or newsletters? Has your manager commented more than once or twice that your professional writing is…a little unprofessional?

Fear not, because here are 10 effective ways you can improve your professional writing and create the impression you want.

Think clearly

In order to write clearly, you need to think clearly. Writing that lacks clarity is usually the result of unclear thinking. If your writing is confusing it’s unlikely your clients or colleagues will want to spend their precious time trying to work out what you mean.

So, make it easy for them and yourself by clarifying your thoughts with these 6 key questions: Who? What? Why? When? Where? How?

When you answer each question, you’ll be able to structure your writing more clearly, with all the important points in place.

Organize your thoughts and ideas

Once you’ve gathered together all the information from your 6 key questions, plus any other content you might need, put it all on the page. Don’t worry if there’s no structure or it looks messy at this stage. Your aim right now is to collect all your points in one place.

When everything is together on the page, you can start to tidy up your writing and put it into a coherent order.

You might need to group your information into sections. To do this you could copy and paste them onto separate pages or print them out if that helps you find the logical order for your content so it flows properly. Use headers to help you work out the order.

Use specific headers and sub-headers

Clear writing includes clear headers. They act as signposts, guiding your reader smoothly through your content, telling them at each stage what to expect.

The headers should, of course, be relevant to each piece of information you present. Don’t use vague titles – be as specific as possible. Remember that many people scan read documents for the gist of the content and to see whether it applies to them, so headers are very important introductions to the content.

Make your text easy on the eyes

Whatever you do, especially if you are writing content to be published online, don’t make it physically hard to read. That means you should use:

  • a legible font, like Arial, Courier or Garamond
  • a font size no smaller than 12 points
  • plenty of white space – don’t make your reader wade through long blocks of text
  • shorter paragraphs – break up your long text into shorter, easier-to-read paragraphs
  • bullet points and numbered lists
  • sub-headings
  • bold text to highlight important points

Edit what you’ve written so far

Editing can be difficult, especially if you feel everything you’ve written so far is essential. This, however, is rarely the case. Most first drafts require a hefty dose of editing.

Be brutal and go through your writing to check for waffle, unnecessary repetition, and overly long sentences. Your aim is to present your information in as few words as possible. Your colleagues and clients would much rather have a three-page report that’s clear and concise and well written, than a wordier five pages that’s full of superfluous content.

Use examples to add interest

So, you have your core message, everything is in the right order, but you feel it lacks some spark.

Depending on what your core message is, it could be a good idea to use some examples to highlight your points and strengthen your case.

This could come from client testimonials, experiences or interviews. You could include stories or analogies that would appeal to your client. Always consider the people you are writing for, and consider what would interest them.

Avoid jargon and explain references

Don’t assume your reader will understand any jargon, abbreviations or acronyms widely used in your company. If you need to use them in your text, always explain the meanings.

The same goes for references – they might not be obvious to your reader, so explain them clearly somewhere on your document.

Don’t leave your reader hanging, wondering what on earth you mean.

Include some visuals

Just as you might use some examples, stories or analogies to bring more life to your writing, you can also use visuals – graphics, illustrations or photographs.

People like to look at visuals as it can help them process information more quickly and effectively, and visuals can also help you explain your core message more efficiently too. For example, complex information can be simplified by the use of graphs or pie charts.  Heat mapping software can be extremely effective, as well.”

Don’t pack as many visuals into your text as possible so it looks cluttered and confusing. Make sure the visuals are well produced and relevant to your document. The aim is to enhance not weaken the quality of your writing.

Use plain English

What is plain English? It’s clear, straightforward writing that helps people to easily understand even complex information.

Professional writing isn’t the same as literary writing. You’re not trying to impress anyone with your inventive metaphors or fancy vocabulary. Your job is to write your message clearly and concisely so people can understand what you mean and act upon your message.

To make sure your writing is simpler, easier and quicker to read, use:

  • shorter words: free instead of complimentary, buy instead of purchase. Typically, earthy Anglo-Saxon English is much more effective here than the flowery Latin equivalent.
  • active not passive sentences: Millions of people worldwide use our product instead of Our product is used by millions of people worldwide. Active sentences are punchier and shorter.
  • one word instead of several: use to instead of as a means of, by instead of on the part of, and so on.

Plain English is never patronizing. In this fast-paced world where we need to access information quickly, it’s a sign of respect for your reader.

The ability to explain complex terms in a simple way is a valuable skill – especially in business.

For more on plain English, visit: http://www.khocopywriting.com/kho-copy-blog/when-it-comes-to-your-writing-keep-it-plain-and-simple

Redraft and proofread your writing

Every document needs redrafting, perhaps even completely rewriting, before it’s good enough. During this process, go back over the other points in this article to help you structure your ideas.

Once you’ve redrafted your text, check it again for clarity. Does it flow properly? Is the core message clear? Is it easy to read and understand? Then put your writing away for an hour or two, and take a break from it.

When you return to your writing, you’ll need to start the proofreading process.

Never skip this part. You don’t want to risk wasting all your hard work because you’ve overlooked some spelling, punctuation or grammar errors and typos. Get someone else to read through your work too, if possible.

Remember to also check all your facts, such as numbers, dates, times and names. Mistakes can be costly, not just for your company, but your career prospects too.

If you use these 10 tips, you’ll not only improve your professional writing and impress your boss, you’ll vastly improve your career prospects too. About communication skills, it is essential to develop fluency in oral speaking as well to communicate messages professionally and adequately. If you go to minhaltech website, you can see there an article about the other importance of learning English.

Great advice from Kay Hutchings-Olsson on writing well — an improving your chances of getting a promotion.  I suggest you print this post and keep it handy.

Your career mentor,


Kay Hutchings-Olsson is a freelance copywriter at KHO Copywriting (www.khocopywriting.com) and an editor, proofreader and business writer at KHO Language Services (www.kholanguageservices.com). You can also find her on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

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  1. Great tips here.
    I’m a writer and I write almost every day.
    I found that using specific headers and sub-headers help a lot.
    If I go into writing the content straight without pre-planning with sub-headers, I will get lost and it is difficult for me to come up with ideas to write.
    Like what you mentioned above, vague titles produce vague results.
    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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