Frankly, many people are bad writers. They come in all shapes and sizes. Most of it takes years and years of reading and writing to correct.
- If you don’t know the elements of composition, or just misuse grammar, it will be a tough road to writing for you
- If you don’t read, you don’t have pattern-recognition of what clear writing looks like
- If you don’t write a lot, it’s just a difficult exercise
- If your readers (customers, suppliers, boss) are not discerning, you will gravitate to the lowest writing common denominator. Remember my ex-CPA who attached an invoice without even writing hello?
However, there are four poor writing habits (which many consultants have) which can be corrected with some conscious (new years resolution-type) effort.
Don’t use jargon. Don’t do this more than necessary. It is not clever, or sophisticated. Everyone knows what these pseudo-intellectual words mean and it’s trite.
Don’t ramble. Edit yourself. After you have written the 500 word email, cut it in half. Put things in bullet points. Organize it so that people can skim the email, if they want. Show some respect for people’s time.
I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter;
I didn’t have time to write a short one. – Blaise Pascal
Think more deeply before you write. Jot down the key points on paper first, or just give yourself an extra 15 minutes walking to the Coke machine to think about it. Let it stew in your brain more before you put it on paper.
Explain it as if you were speaking to a kid. This is the most common piece of advice I give to junior consultants who make PowerPoint slides. Explain this 1 page as if you were explaining it to your nephew, cousin or husband. What are you trying to say (in simple words, and simple sentences).
Too often, consultants can verbally explain it to you clearly in 90 seconds, but oddly, none of those wonderfully clear, basic words are on the page. As a result, I tell them to blow up the PowerPoint slide, and re-do it with the words they just told me verbally.
Good night. I commit all of the above writing sins, daily.