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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Writing Skills

Our life is frittered away by detail Simplify, simplify.
HENRY DAVID THOREAU

In business, as in life, first impressions are very important. Often, your first contact with clients will be written — through letters, brochures, sales kits, annual reports, and so on. Here are some basic guidelines that will help you improve your writing skills and present yourself as a competent, articulate, knowledgeable professional.

  1. Be clear and concise. Make sure your writing is free of jargon, nonessential words, and unnecessarily complicated sentences.

  2. Never use five words where one will do. For example, instead of "at the present time," simply use "now"; rather than "due to the fact that," write "because."

  3. Favour simple words over complicated words. Don't write "utilize" if "use" will do.

  4. Be authoritative — this gives people confidence in your abilities. Ruthlessly prune your writing of qualifiers — "a bit," "kind of," "quite," "very" — that weaken your persuasiveness. A sentence such as "This is quite a good product, and I'm pretty sure you will like it" can be deadly.

  5. Opt for the active voice over the passive. "He hit the ball over the left-field fence" is preferable to "The ball was hit by him over the left-field fence."

  6. Never lie or make exaggerated claims in your writing. If your reader catches you in even one small lie, everything in your report or letter becomes suspect.

  7. Keep your writing accessible and appealing. Use anecdotes, subheads, sidebars, bullets, and graphics where appropriate. Write in a style that is conversational and friendly, but don't be careless or resort to slang.

The easiest way to improve your writing is to learn to edit yourself. Read over any written work, even if it's just a one-page letter, and prune any superfluous words or examples, any passive constructions, any unnecessary jargon. More than anything else, you must be clear in your mind about what it is you wish to communicate. Remember: a cluttered mind produces cluttered writing.

When you're writing, it's a good idea to have a guide to punctuation handy, as well as those other tools for good writing, a dictionary and a thesaurus. Don't rely too heavily on the programs built into your word-processing software.


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