In this handbook, I aim to help you improve your writing skills by mastering these basic essentials: getting through to your reader, employing appropriate words, crafting clear and concise sentences, using pleasantries, avoiding redundancies, punctuating, paragraphing, referencing and proofreading.
The advancement in technology has led the current generation to talk and watch more but write less. Then, when they write, they can be aided by websites, search engines, blogs or software. Does this really help them improve their writing? Yes, when they use reputable sources, understand their mistakes and learn from them. Often, however, they are in a hurry and fail to give their sources a second scrutiny. As such, they think they write well but then wonder why their correspondence or report does not achieve its purpose.
Some individuals manage to write professional correspondence by cutting and pasting. Sometimes they get it right; sometimes not. Well, if they want to get it right all the time, they should learn or relearn how to write precise, original correspondence.
This handbook has two main parts. First, I discuss how we can write effectively irrespective of formality and purpose. Second, I explain specific points of grammar, vocabulary, word and sentence structure, punctuation, abbreviations and referencing to achieve a high standard of writing.
What do I mean by a written communication?
A written communication can be a letter (e.g. invitation, job application, enquiry, complaint, etc.) or notes exchanged by two or more individuals or teams, groups, organisations, companies and parties. It can also be a report, briefing paper, interview schedule, questionnaire, leaflet or brochure.
The text can be on paper or sent by electronic transmission (known as electronic mail or email) and text message (SMS – short message service through mobile phones).
When individuals or organisations exchange written or digital communication, there is a sender and a receiver. The sender thinks, develops and writes the idea then conveys this to the receiver (the other person or party). The receiver interprets the message and reacts accordingly even if this means doing nothing.
Often, the persons who receive the message reply. However, the senders cannot definitely know whether the receivers have understood or interpreted well the message they have sent. Thus, common understanding is primordial in any communication. Since the onus is on the writers to get the right message across and without misunderstanding, it is necessary for them to keep their writing skills up to date.
As senders, they choose a communication format or style that best suits their message and relationship with the readers. Regardless of the format they decide, they should maintain an empathetic, polite and truthful tone all the time.
My mantra as a writer is simplicity because it equates to responsibility and transparency. We are responsible for ensuring that our message get across. If we confuse our reader, we are not transparent.
“One of the greatest of all faults in writing and in speaking is this: the using of many words to say little.” – William Cobbett