Often when I write I just park myself in front of the keyboard and start typing. And this is fine when I want to capture an immediate thought, or have an idea that’s already formed in my head.
But it’s not always the best way to approach writing for business. What I’ve typed without thinking deeply or planning is not my final work. It is part of my process. If I’m writing a report or a sales letter, website copy or a brochure, I need to plan my writing rather more carefully. Sure, I’ll probably open a word processing document and jot down ideas and notes, but only as a resource for my larger writing project.
What is the writing process?
One version, and a version I find useful and quite like, is a 3 stage process.
Use this stage to:
- Collect, synthesise and organise information (including information about the purpose of your writing and your intended audience)
- Brainstorm your take-home messages (what do you want your audience to remember?)
- Work out ideas away from the computer (I often use Post-It Notes. One idea per note. They’re easy to shuffle around to help you with the next step.)
- Develop a road map/outline (move the Post-Its around until they’re in a logical sequence and add extras if necessary.)
Stage 2—Writing Your First Draft
- Put your facts and ideas together in organised prose, following your road map and writing up the ideas that you identified in stage 1.
- Read your writing out loud. Think about sentence length, paragraphs, style.
- Get rid of any clutter. Look at the verbs. Have you used adverbs? Is there a stronger verb you can use that doesn’t need an adverb? What about jargon? Is your writing in Plain English? Have you used the same word or expression repeatedly?
- Do a verb check and make sure that your tenses are consistent.
- Get feedback from others, assess its validity and incorporate it if it’s useful.
- Do a final check of grammar and spelling.
Good writing reads well. Every word is in its correct place and means what it should mean. But good writing is not easy to achieve. Very few people are able to create their final draft at their first attempt. I often listen to interviews with published authors and they all mention the time they spend revising. They don’t say, “I just sat down, wrote one draft and then sent it to the publisher.” When you have a writing assignment to complete, avoid leaving it to the last minute. Give yourself plenty of time for revision and write the best piece you can.