Become a Good Writer, Not a Plagiarizer

While plagiarism is bad, good writing will set you apart and put you on the road to the life and career success you want and deserve.  Most unsuccessful people are poor writers.  They are unclear.  They ramble.  Their emails, letters and reports are a series of long sentences filled with big words that don’t really say anything.

You can’t catch people’s attention by writing this way.  You need to write in a clear, crisp, concise manner.

I try to write like a journalist.  I use short sentences with a simple subject-verb-object structure.  My writing may read a little staccato-like, but it communicates.  People tell me that they can understand my points and the reasoning behind them.  And that’s what I want when I write.

Your objective in writing at work is to communicate – not to impress others with your vocabulary.  Several years ago I was speaking with my niece at her college graduation party.  We were discussing y book Straight Talk for Success.  I said that I’d tried for an “avuncular hip” writing style.  She said, “What does that mean?”  I replied, “Avuncular means uncle-like.  I wanted to sound like a hip uncle to people reading the book.”  She came back with a great question: “Why didn’t you just say so?”

She was right.  Everybody knows what “uncle-like” means.  A lot of people, including magna cum laude graduates like my niece, don’t know the word “avuncular.”  I was just showing off my vocabulary by using that word.  As a result, I didn’t communicate effectively.  This was bad enough in conversation.  It’s even worse in writing when the other person can’t ask you that question immediately.

Write with your reader in mind.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to read aloud what you’ve written to get a feel for how it will sound to your reader.  Write in short, simple sentences.  Use the simplest words you can to get across your point, while still being accurate.  Write fast.  Get your thoughts on paper or the computer screen as quickly as you can.  Then edit and rewrite until you’ve said exactly what you want to say.  One of my first bosses always told me that rewriting is the secret to good writing.

Spelling counts, too.  Correct spelling does two things for you.  First, it shows that you have a good command of the language.  Second, and more important, correct spelling demonstrates that you respect both yourself and the reader.  Misspelled words stand out like sore thumbs to readers.

Don’t just spell check your documents.  Proof them.  Spellcheck often won’t pick up improper usage in words like “your” and “you’re,” “hear” and “here,” and “their” and “there.”

The same holds true for punctuation.  Make sure that you know how to properly use periods, question marks, commas, colons, semicolons, exclamation marks, quotation marks and apostrophes.  If you’re not sure about punctuation rules, spend a little time on the Internet learning proper usage.

I like Grammarly an automated online proofreader that finds and explains those pesky grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes that are bound to find their way into your first draft. Think of it as a second pair of digital eyes that can spare you the cost of hiring a proofreader.

Become a clear, concise and crisp writer and your career will take off.  It takes a little work, but will be worth it in the long run.

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