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Don't Attempt to Write Without Them
by Linda Elizabeth Alexander
You're ready to do it. You've accepted an assignment from your boss, agreed to put together a sales presentation, or were asked to write a report about last week's meeting results. Where do you begin? Before you venture off into the land of writing for your job, be prepared with the items on this checklist.
1. Adjust your attitude.
Writing doesn't have to be like drawing blood. In fact, many times in business writing, much of the work is already done for you. Your job may be as simple as rewording or organizing information that you already have.
No matter how much you like your music or AM radio talk show it is best to work in a quiet spot. Even if you work in a noisy place like a newsroom or a cube farm, reduce the amount of noise around you so you can concentrate better. Wear earplugs if it helps you!
3. Your thinking cap!
Colored markers, pencils, or a large easel pad may help you with brainstorming. Or, you may find it easier to work with a team first to generate ideas and then have one person write the first draft. Whatever works for you, make sure your brain is in creative mode, not editing/criticism mode. Creativity comes first; editing and refining later.
4. Eliminate distractions.
Turn off the phone, close your office door, and don't check your email every 10 seconds. Have your assistant tell everyone you're in a meeting and you can't see him or her unless they're dying. For at least 1 hour, work with no interruptions.
5. Computer, pen, scratchpad, or other tools you like.
You may prefer writing longhand; it can help you connect with your thoughts and emotions. Or, you may be quicker at typing directly on the computer. Either way, don't expect a perfect draft the first time. You will be scribbling a lot (or cutting and pasting) at first.
6. Contact names and phone numbers, etc.
Be sure you have handy a list of people you might need to talk with to verify information. For example, if you are writing an article for your company newsletter, you may need quotes from the CEO.
7. Dictionary and Thesaurus.
The ones that come with the word processor are not sufficient. Get yourself some good old fashioned books, or a dictionary/thesaurus on CD.
8. Company style guide.
Some companies are very strict about their internal or external communications. They may have rules about style (different accepted spellings, for example) so that everybody who reads your company's literature or correspondence receives a consistent message about your company. You may lose credibility with your readers if everything sounds like it came from XYZ Corporation, except the letter you are writing.
9. The right atmosphere.
If your office doesn't cut it, find a better place. The library may work. A conference room might provide more space for you to pace as you're dictating your masterpiece. If you're writing about your company's manufacturing plant, it might help you to actually be there while you're writing.
10. Writing is rewriting.
Remember that nobody, even Shakespeare, gets it on the first try. Your first draft is exactly that - a rough copy, a sketch. Think of it as the equivalent of a doodle when artists paint. They don't start with the canvas - and neither should you. Unlike many other jobs, in writing, it's okay to make mistakes as you go along. Your final draft will be vastly different from the few sentence fragments you begin with.
Using the checklist items will set you up for a successful writing session. Have on hand as many of these items as you can each and every time you sit down to write something -- whether it's a letter to your customers or an annual report. By keeping all the tools you need in one place, your writing session will go smoother and will be easier on your stress level than without them.
Copyright © Linda Elizabeth Alexander
Linda Elizabeth Alexander is a business writer and marketing Consultant based in Longmont, Colorado, USA. Improve your writing skills at work! Subscribe to her FREE ezine, Write to the Point, at http://www.write2thepointcom.com/newsletter.html.
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