Writing tips for non-writers

January 06 2016

If you’re trying to get something done (build a business, raise funds, get a job, find employees), writing is a helpful skill to have. But if you think writing is best left up to the pros, follow my three-step recipe for a writing process that’s both easy and effective.*

Step 1: What are you writing about?

Think about what you want to communicate and who you are trying to reach. What do you want to say? Once you decide your position or attitude about that thing, you can begin to make notes about your ideas. Jot down words and phrases that come to mind. You can go back and edit later, but for this initial step, get down on paper as much as you can.

Next, structure your writing. If you’re presenting or trying to convince an audience of something, try to organize your thoughts logically. Think about your writing as a hamburger: the top bun is your introduction, the meat and filling is the body (your main points!), and the bottom piece of bread is your conclusion or summary. Leave out any part of this, and your hamburger presentation just isn’t as tempting.

There’s a reason beginning/middle/end works in storytelling.

Step 2. Begin writing!

Don’t overthink this. Go! Start! With Step 1 in hand, you’ll have the framework and parts you need to write something convincing. If this is writing someone else will be reading, you may want to focus on grammar and punctuation. If it’s a love note, your handwriting should be clear enough your lover can read it.

Step 3. Proofread & Edit

Re-read what you’ve written to check for blatant errors. It can help to read out loud (or whisper) to make sure what you’ve written makes sense. Have you repeated words? If so, is this on purpose or can you use better, more colorful synonyms? If this is an important document or email, save yourself future embarrassment and remember to edit spelling and grammatical mistakes.

As with any skill, improvement require practice and dedication. Keep writing! And reading! What articles attract you? Notice what draws your attention and what repels it. What makes you keep reading a story? Surround yourself with quality writing, and you will become a stronger writer.

*I teach these tips to my students in Nepal.