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Effective Writing Matters

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Knowledge of things and knowledge of the words for them grow together. If you do not know the words, you can hardly know the thing. – Henry Hazlitt

Despite living in an age where people communicate with emojis, memes, and GIFs, the ability to write is still a vital skill.

As far as writers are concerned, I’m sort of an anomaly. I’m a project manager at a consulting firm, leading a team of talented professionals who provide traffic engineering design and analysis services for public agencies and private clients.

My weekdays are spent mulling over findings in complex spreadsheets, designing in CAD platforms, and studying results from traffic simulation software. It’s as left-brained as it gets.

But outside of the day job, I’m a writer. I recently authored a full-length poetry collection, maintain a blog focused on creativity, write short fiction, and pen articles on personal growth.

A baccalaureate in engineering and graduate schooling in business keep me grounded in what can be documented, studied, and compared – above all, dissatisfied with superficial explanations. This shows up in my writing. Meanwhile, expressing myself in a field where specialized knowledge is buried in the minds of talented introverts has given me chances to shine.

What boosted my career hasn’t just been analytical skills or technical prowess. It’s been the ability to communicate effectively via writing. And creative writing outside the office positively influences my technical writing at work.

As I mentor and train new staff members, they have puzzled looks when I mention honing their writing skills is critical to their success and a must-have to be considered for promotions and opportunities. So I provide some reasons why this advice applies to them:

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You need other people to fully understand your work – and your worth.

Skilled engineer? Gifted analyst? Genius scientist? Your work speaks for itself, right?

Sort of. Your work speaks for itself, but it may not be in a language everyone comprehends.

If you’re the only one who understands your output, you’ll never receive credit for your brilliance. Or worse yet, clients or management might gravitate towards somebody else’s mediocre but effectively presented ideas. Learning to convey complex concepts or data concisely is a way to maximize your impact.

The position you’ll want in a few years will require writing skills.

Do you want to rise within your organization? Chances are your supervisor writes a lot: reports, emails, memos, presentation notes, etc. One way to showcase that you’re ready for advancement is by developing strong communication skills.

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Or maybe you’ll change jobs in the future. Then you’ll need to craft a cover letter or correspond with recruiters. Misspellings and grammatical errors in an email could sidetrack your chances. But an eloquent thank you note to a hiring manager could bump you to the top of the resume slush pile.

Right or wrong, people draw conclusions about your abilities based on how you write.

I’ve seen companies and agencies reject proposals because they were riddled with typos. These mistakes make competent people appear amateurish and sloppy. No one wants to offer a contract to someone like that.

Even if your work is error-free, clear writing can be the difference between impressing people or confusing them. That difference influences how clients and coworkers perceive you.

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Every instant message, letter, and presentation slide leaves an impression on readers. You can transform their reactions into successful projects, positive salary adjustments, and promotions by becoming a better writer.

I’m still growing as a writer and will never stop developing. Like most people, I’m a work-in-progress, and in dire need of revisions. But here are some ideas I’ve amassed on how to develop as a writer if you’re starting from scratch:

  • Be willing to evolve. You’re not a comedian just because you told a funny joke once. And you’re not a writer just because you published one article, research paper, or blog post. Turning into a solid writer includes effort and personal transformation. Each story or report you compose is a journey. Each assignment is a chance to learn something new. Every brainstorming session and struggle endured bolsters your wordsmithing abilities.
  • Write until your idea tank is on empty. To grow as a writer, accept the notion that a huge word count is needed. How many words would you guess an up-and-coming writer must pump out before they reach success? How frequently does a winning golfer golf or a great dancer dance? Often and consistently.
  • Read successful writers. Reading is the yin and writing is the yang. Or perhaps it’s vice versa. Either way, one can’t exist without the other. And, for balance, both should be equally present. For each paragraph you write, you should read one. Constantly expose your mind to good writing. Find successful writers to follow. Assess what they do well and what you can do to take that skill further. Then put those ideas into
  • Use a second set of eyes. We might be great at proofreading others’ writing, but usually not our own. Writers can bring a piece only so far and then it should be handed off to another person who can view it from an outside perspective.
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You might not need to dive into both technical and creative writing realms to discover success. But working in technology or engineering doesn’t give you the right to write poorly, either.

Writing is an ability that can be cultivated. Evolving into a powerful communicator provides value regardless of your career path. It’s a keen investment that can yield exceptional benefits.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I can’t emphasize enough having a second set of eyes. Like a broken record, my oft-repeated mantra is that you are your own worst editor. If possible, get someone who is not a writer to read your drafts. Sure, that person might not know how to write but certainly knows how to read. Ask, does this make sense? When you start reading, do you want to keep reading to the end? To attract the broadest audience, you need to make your work attractive and understandable without resorting to click bait.

    If you can’t find another person to proof for you, at least let your latest draft sit for a day or two. You’ll be surprised how you can read what you wrote as if you had not read it before. You might find yourself saying Yikes! or shaking your head, but that’s the whole point. Better you catch that in your own writing before others do it for you after publication.

    • Great point. I completely agree with you.

      I often say when I’m finding that other person to review that “I’m too close” to the report or article I’ve written to be an effective editor. Some words and phrases may be wrong in the text that you can’t see because you will fill in the blank mentally with what you intended instead of truly reviewing the words you’ve written.

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