Business Writing Strategies: Before You Start…

Effective communication is rarely achieved by those who sit down at the computer at the last minute, crank out their thoughts and then distribute that first draft. One of the greatest drains on a company’s resources is the time it takes to rewrite or clarify poorly planned and executed communication. So, planning and prewriting not only save time in the end, doing so can also mean you spend less time writing in the first place.

Planning Cuts Writing Time by 30 to 40 Percent

Let me thinkOutline the main ideas of your message before you begin so you can be sure to include everything and arrange it in a logical order.

• State your purpose in 10 words or less at the top of the outline.

• Organize your research, statistics, discussion or meeting notes and have them ready to integrate where necessary.

• Envision one person who would be a good representative of your audience (one stockholder, one employee, one manager) and imagine you’re sitting across the table from him or her. Write as you might deliver the information in person to this imaginary representative.

• Remember what you want people to do or understand or remember when they finish reading, and keep that goal in your mind as you write each sentence.

• Remind your reader of the benefit of action and/or the consequence of inaction.

Prewriting Generates Ideas and Connections

When you prewrite, it is crucial that you always follow these rules:

• Jot down the purpose for the message you’re trying to write, somewhere on your prewriting sheet.

• Do not edit yourself at all! Don’t cross out or erase or pull out the thesaurus or worry about punctuation or anything. Don’t worry about how neat or organized it is. Just keep that pencil or keyboard moving, no matter what.

• Write everything that comes into your head—whether it makes sense or not. Don’t worry if you find yourself distracted and going off topic, just write all that down, too, and then move back to your topic. Enjoy where your mind takes you! Sometimes doodles can bring good ideas, too, so go for it!

• Remember, you are not being graded! No one will ever see this but you, so let yourself go!

Try These Prewriting Strategies

Free Writing

view from behind of a businesswoman writing on a presentation diagramStart with a problem, issue or topic for which you need to develop content.

• Set a timer for no more than five minutes.

• Write down every word that comes into your head regarding that problem word or purpose, without stopping. If you get stuck, write “I’m stuck, I can’t think of anything, gee, I wish I could think of something …” until something comes to you.

• Don’t stop for anything. Pausing to think can be all it takes to invite writer’s block and the frustration that accompanies it, so keep going, no matter what.

• At the end of the five minutes, stop, get up and stretch for a couple of minutes, but not too long.

• Then, take a colored marker or highlighter and look over your ideas, marking those that have potential for inclusion in your message.

Mind Mapping

Mindmap of a leader traits• Jot your central idea, purpose, or problem in the middle of a piece of paper.

• Branch off from that central idea or problem to related thoughts and ideas.

• Branch off from sub-thoughts to other sub-thoughts until you run out of ideas regarding the original topic.

• Use phrases and key words, or even symbols

• Color code related ideas.

• Don’t try to edit or control how the map develops; just let it flow.

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