We’ve all become writers, yet most of us rarely consider what our writing says about us.
Keyboards and keypads capture our daily stream of digital communication – emails, text messages, calendar reminders, Twitter updates and more.
Among friends and family, anything goes. In business correspondence, however, the way you write can have far-ranging impacts, including your ability to succeed!
More than 300 distinct traits define your writing style and ability.
These characteristics influence how well you assemble ideas, persuade clients and communicate with co-workers.
Dr. Ellis Batten Page, long considered the father of automated scoring for essay writing, identified many of these traits while developing his scoring technology, Project Essay Grade, in the 1960’s. Dr. Page’s work was the culmination of years of research in computational linguistics and artificial intelligence, coupled with his experience as a high school English teacher.
Dr. Page’s findings form the foundation of modern-day writing classes. For example, many educators rely on a subset of the 300 traits called the 6+1 Trait Writing Model to differentiate writing quality.
But wait, my school days are over. Why should I care now?
Writing characteristics don’t matter only in school. In professional writing, they influence how well you assemble ideas, persuade clients and communicate with co-workers.
Writing quality even influences your search engine rankings. Search engines use artificial intelligence (AI) to score writing quality. The scores affect search results. Dr. Page’s findings provide the foundation for today’s AI scoring engines!
When you’re emailing a client or writing a report, are you focused on completing it as quickly as possible so you can proceed to the next task on your list? Well, of course!
But how do others perceive your writing? The answer might surprise you.
Whether the objective is higher Google rankings, increased respect among our peers, or a raise, each of us can improve our writing when we know where to focus our efforts!
Today, we will examine 5 key features that impact your written words. We’ll also share tips you can use to craft more powerful messages that will increase your probability of success.
Development of Ideas
If you’ve ever crafted a sales pitch or made the case for that raise you deserve, you’re probably familiar with the development of ideas, even if you don’t recognize the phrase in this context.
How persuasive is this sentence:
I deserve a raise.
If I’m your boss, my first question is why?
Let’s try again. This time, we’ll focus on the development of ideas.
I deserve a raise because my last 3 projects were under budget, I am managing 4 more team members, and I introduced a valuable new client to the firm last month.
If that sales pitch you developed was successful, it probably involved more than a one-liner like this:
You should hire my company.
Instead, your pitch likely included examples of successful campaigns, client testimonials, a detailed bid, a timetable, and a statement of work that clearly defined the project scope.
Each component reinforced your assertion that the client should hire you.
Persuasion requires the development of ideas.
Tip: Become more persuasive by developing ideas that support your view.
What’s your strategy for assembling a jigsaw puzzle?
Do you separate the pieces by color or shape? Do you connect the border pieces first?
Organizing any piece of writing is like solving a puzzle. It is easier when you have a strategy, which becomes a problem-solving structure.
You wouldn’t start a project report with the evaluation section. First, you would present the scope, the team members who participated, and the process you followed to complete the project. The evaluation examines how these pieces came together; therefore, it comes last.
This same principle applies to any form of written communication – event plans usually begin with the name, date, and time of the event. Emails regularly contain a salutation or a greeting line. Blog posts introduce a broad idea and then examine its finer points throughout the post.
Organization provides a logical sequence that makes your writing cohesive.
Tip: Before you write, take the time to organize your thoughts.
Varying your sentence structure is an effective way to captivate and retain your readers’ focus.
What makes the writing example below monotonous?
Facebook is a popular social media platform. LinkedIn is another popular platform. Google Plus is my favorite social media platform.
Repetitive sentence structure will put your audience to sleep faster than a Bill Cosby cocktail.
Don’t put readers to sleep on your watch.
Would you eat the same lunch, day after day? Don’t tranquilize readers with the same sentence, line after line.
Vary your sentence structure!
Tip: Engage your readers by using each of the four types of sentence structure.
Your personal style is evident in the clothes you wear. Although you have a style of our own, you vary your attire to match the occasion and the people you’ll encounter.
Like your wardrobe, it is best to choose a writing style that matches each purpose and audience. Professional writers refer to this style as your writer’s “voice.”
Memos to your employees differ from text messages to a close friend. When you are communicating professionally, make sure your writing style resonates with its recipients.
The most effective writing is natural and appropriate for its intended purpose and reader. Keep this in mind, especially for your business communications.
Dress appropriately. Write appropriately.
Tip: To improve your writing skills, become aware of your writing voice, and use it.
Your words set the tone.
Contractions and colloquialisms are often appropriate and fun in casual writing; they can be disastrous in formal writing.
Like your writing style, choose your words with your objective and readers in mind.
Word choice can evoke powerful emotions. Careless word choice frequently has unintended consequences.
Writers tasked with crafting taglines, headlines, and elevator pitches often devote hours to a single phrase. They know each word they choose has the power to further their marketing objectives, or send them into a tailspin.
Your word choice may have more impact than you realize.
Tip: Be mindful of the words you use and how they will impact your reader.
Bonus Trait: Writing Conventions
Spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization are known, collectively, as writing conventions. These mechanical elements may seem boring, but they are the linchpin of your message.
Stimulating a reader with your word choice or wowing them with your style won’t be possible if they are struggling to make sense of misspelled words and run-on sentences.
Making sure your writing conventions are correct is like putting that final piece of the puzzle into place. It unites each part, creating a complete picture.
Error-free writing is more engaging, more compelling, and simply more enjoyable to read.
Tip: Don’t force your readers to guess what you are trying to say. Use a spell checker and grammar checker. When every word counts, hire an editor, a writer or both.