In a previous post, Corporate Recruiters List Top Three Soft Skills, had highlighted the fact that communication is a hot job skill in high demand. If you can communicate well, you can instantly stand-out in the crowd of applicants.
Since you cannot be everywhere, speaking, informing and persuading, your writing needs to do the heavy lifting of your business communication. And limp-noodle writing will not work in the professional world.
It’s an imperative: you have to build writing muscle.
As with any workout regimen, you build writing muscle deliberately and over time. How? Let’s spell it out:
M IS FOR MARCH
March out there and get going. Until you sweat it out over a blank page, it’s all theoretical.
Start now to write daily. Pump up your word count step by step for each piece you write. Find a way that works for you: journaling, blogging, writing well-crafted emails, draft a speech or take a stab at writing copy for a not-yet-launched product or service.
“Writing and reworking your own writing is where the change happens, and it’s not quick,” says Kara Blackburn, a senior lecturer in managerial communication at MIT Sloan School of Management. “The time is well spent because good writers distinguish themselves on the job.”
U IS FOR UPEND
Upend your preconceptions about writing and especially your own abilities. Set aside what teachers, former bosses, etc. may have told you about your writing. That is all in the past. You are in training now, and there is no room for waffling or self-doubt.
S IS FOR STRENGTHEN
It’s time to strengthen your grasp of English. Find a couple of minutes each day to learn new vocabulary, do some research on grammar and punctuation, or just read a book.
For starters you might download a dictionary app (The Free Dictionary is a good one with some mind-expanding word games) and get a copy of this classic: Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.
Then try Grammar Girl’s “Quick and Dirty Tips” podcast for a daily dose of fun and fascinating information that will strengthen your understanding the quirky English language.
Words are your tools as a writer. Learn all you can about how to use them.
C IS FOR COACHING
You can start to workout on your own, but at some point you need coaching. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know, and occasionally you need somebody to tell you what to do next and answer questions. Getting expert guidance and feedback from someone who knows business communication—inside and out—is a crucial part of the journey to building solid writing muscle.
Who should you recruit to be your coach? Think about former bosses, professors or friends with good writing skills. They’ll be flattered to be asked and you’ll get much-needed input and guidance.
L IS FOR LEARNING
The best way to accelerate your learning? Read.
Branch out from the things you read every day. Read in many genres: fiction, creative nonfiction, journalism and personal essays. You will learn something from it all and be surprised how steady reading produces better writing.
Warren Buffet was once asked how a person can get smarter. He lifted a stack of papers and said “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge builds up, like compound interest.”
E IS FOR EXPRESS YOURSELF
“The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks.”
You have ideas and knowledge to share. You want to have an impact in your field. But you can’t if you don’t know how to put your thoughts into words.
Writing down your thoughts is a workout for your brain. Sometimes it is frustrating to try and record all the things that are in your head, but it is an essential process—one that leads to clearer thought, communication and action.
One that will get you the great job you are seeking.