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.
2. Quiet. 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
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 hesaurus 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
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