Writing has always been one of the pleasures in my list of things to do as often as I can. I was always interested in being a better writer in school and on the job. A bit geeky, I admit. For me, writing has been a way to communicate but also a way to work on a problem/solution, define what I know about a subject and what I need to learn, and more. There’s nothing like writing to bring structure to your thoughts.
While at my first job as a law librarian, I was lucky enough to take a class taught by writing consultant, Stephen Wilbers. He was there to teach associates and any administrative managers who were interested in improving their business writing. During the course he focused on the technical aspects of how to write but also how to write to get your readers attention, write persuavesily, and most importantly in a law firm, get to the point and keep it short.
Since I still make some writing mistakes and want to keep my skills up, I usually read anything I come across that provides tips and techniques in writing. This morning, I read an article suggested by one of my Linkedin groups, by Brenda Bernstein, of the Essay Expert, on MyLegal.com, Why it’s Important to Write Right in the Legal Profession and 5 Common Pitfalls to Avoid. While it is written for lawyers, it has good tips for the rest of us as well.
I’ve learned over time that most lawyers only give you 2-3 minutes of their time before they decide if you will provide any benefit to their practice. Once they decide , it will take something big to get them to change their minds. If you don’t make a good impression during those minutes, you will find it difficult to get their support in the future.
The same is true with writing, but in this case, you may only get a few seconds of their time, before they decide the rest of what you wrote is worth reading. This means anything you write, especially emails, needs to be written as if it is the most important term paper that you turned in as a freshman in college.
If you don’t feel you have the skills to communicate effectively in writing or even have some doubt about your skills, do something about it. Take a class, read a book, practice writing. It will make your work more interesting and successful at the same time.