In the last few posts, I’ve been hinting at the fact that not all of us are born writers. Some of us need training. And in order to be effective, a training regimen needs to be long term.
So I thought I’d provide a few concrete suggestions on how to set yourself up for success. I’m calling these the Seven Steps for Long-Term Writing Improvement. And I’d love to hear what other tips you would add to this list.
1) Self assess to train effectively.
Look, I know I run a training company, and so this sounds totally self-serving. But the fact is, you can’t do it alone. You need training.
But only you can decide what training you need. So take a good hard look at your writing. What comments do you receive on a regular basis? Where do you struggle? Ask your supervisor and
your colleagues for honest feedback.
And remember to evaluate your strengths along with your weaknesses. What are you good at? Finally, what are your goals? What kind of a writer do you want to be?
Now, seek out training based on your personal criteria. Ask questions. Get testimonials and references. Ask for trial sessions. And make sure it works for you before beginning a long-term program with one trainer.
2) Build a strong foundation using the right tools.
The Writer’s Triangle allows you to analyze your author, audience, purpose, and context. It’s a brainstorming tool that you should be using before you begin any writing project. For more information, please check out this short video. (Click play after you get to the site).
The Writing Cycle identifies the 6 discrete stages that writers progress through as they complete a document. If you’ve ever felt like your writing is a juggling act, and you’re dropping the balls, it’s probably because you’re trying to perform all 6 stages simultaneously.
And stay tuned. You’ll be hearing a lot more from me on these two topics in the upcoming weeks.
3) Buy a library.
a) A great dictionary. Online dictionaries are handy. They’re not great. You need a big, fat, onion skin, full etymology, illustrated, with usage notes, and abbreviations-you-can’t comprehend dictionary. Buy a pedestal, put it in your office, and paste a copy of the abbreviation list right above it. The dictionary is your friend.
b) A grammar handbook. In order to understand comma rules, you have to know what a coordinating conjunction is. And in order to know what a coordinating conjunction is, you have to have a grammar handbook.
There are lots of good ones out there. I’ve reviewed four of the leading names on my site. Take a look and pick the one you like best.
c) A style manual. Every field or discipline has its own style manual. I’ve compiled a list, complete with websites and print publications. Check it to see which one you should be using. If you’re not sure, and you’re writing for the internet, the AP is always a good bet.
So remember, self assess, build a strong foundation, and buy a library. Four more tips coming at
you next Wednesday. I’ll see you then. And until next time, please share your writing tips and goals. Best wishes–Michelle