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Chapter 5 Writing Preparation

Before you write, think.

William Arthur Ward

Getting Started

Introductory Exercises

  1. Identify a career you are interested in pursuing and do an online search for information about it, taking note of the number of results returned and a couple of the top ten sources. Compare your results with those of your classmates.
  2. Visit your college or university library. Familiarize yourself with the resources available to business writers and choose one resource that you find especially valuable. Write a short summary of the resource to share with your classmates, explaining why you chose this resource.
  3. In a business setting, describe some circumstances where it would it be appropriate to send a message by instant messaging, or by e-mail, or in a printed memo. Ask some colleagues or coworker what they consider the best option and why, and share the results with the class.

No matter who you are, you were not born speaking English (or any other language), and were certainly not born writing. You learned to speak and to write and, like all humans, your skill in speaking and writing can continue to improve and adapt across your lifetime. The awareness of this simple fact should encourage you. If your writing has been well received in the past, congratulations. It may be that your skill in producing college-level essays has served you well. Still, the need for learning to produce clear, concise business writing may be a new skill for you. Even seasoned professional business communicators find it a challenge to present complex and dynamic relationships in a way that the audience can grasp at a glance, on a first read, or with minimal effort. If your writing has not been as well received in the past as you would like, this chapter will help you see the process from a perspective where attention to specific steps can lead to overall success.

In addition to your previous experiences, you will necessarily draw on the writing of others as you prepare for your writing effort. If you have ever fallen asleep on your textbook, you know that trying to absorb many pages of reading in a single session is not the best strategy for studying. In the same way, as you prepare to write a business document, you know that using the first search result listed on Google or Yahoo! is not the best strategy for success. You may be tempted to gather only the information that is most readily available, or that which confirms your viewpoint, but you will sell yourself short and may produce an inferior piece of writing.

Instead, you need to determine the purpose of your writing project; search for information, facts, and statistics to support your purpose; and remain aware of information that contradicts the message you are aiming to convey. Think of it as an exercise program. If you only do the easy exercises, and nothing else, you may develop a single muscle group, but will never gain real strength. What kinds of skills, or strengths, will you need in order to write well enough to succeed in your career? Solid research skills combined with effective preparation for writing involve a range of skill sets that require time and practice. The degree to which you make the extra effort will pay dividends throughout your career.