How to fake being good at writing

‘Cleo, you need a comma in that sentence.’ I felt my ears turn beetroot red. I groaned internally. Experience had taught me that my face would soon follow.

It was my first day working at Write — and someone had already found out I was a fraud.

You see, I’m not naturally good at spelling or grammar. My brother Rory got great marks on spelling tests, while I vividly remember spelling Jam with a ‘G’. Working at Write was my first proper desk job. I’d never even written a business email! And quite frankly, I had no clue where to start.

How do you want the other person to feel?

The first thing you’ll learn when working at Write (or attending our workshops) is that the reader is more important than the person sending the email.

They need to be able to understand what you’re saying and what they’re meant to do next. That means you shouldn’t try and over-complicate your emails. Start with the main message and keep confusing words or technical terms to a minimum.

Always be polite and friendly — you never know who your email might be forwarded to!

Floating headings suck

A floating heading is this annoying gap between the heading and your first paragraph. They are the devil in word form. And you don’t want these if you want your writing to look professional — trust me.

i-am-a-floating-heading

Here’s how to fix this problem. There’s a cool thing called heading styles. I promise you’ll never look back — it saves so much time.

You can change your heading styles (and other things) in the top right corner of your Word document. Instead of you needing to manually change each heading to get rid of the annoying gap, they’ll all change at once! Genius. Your place probably has corporate heading styles they want you to use. And if they don’t, you might want to suggest setting some up so the whole team has a consistent look. Write can help you with this — have a chat.

The em dash is your friend

We love a good em dash at Write. It’s the long dash that’s aesthetically pleasing and hard to use incorrectly. For the grammatically challenged among us, this little punctuation mark is a life saver.

Don’t tell anyone, but occasionally when I’m not sure about a comma — I’ll chuck in an em dash. Shhhh… our little secret!

love pexel.jpeg

You could say it’s getting pretty serious between me and the em dash! Image by PEXELS

One of these babies is as simple as holding Ctrl + Alt + dash. Depending on your keyboard, sometimes you’ll have to copy and paste one in from Google.

StationEry vs StationAry

I’ve finally got this one down folks. Thanks to my colleague Helen’s little trick.

Use an E when you’re dealing with Equipment… like pens, pencils, and erasers. Which means the version where you’re standing still is the A. Simple as that!

pens

There’s loads of little tricks to make life easy! Image by PEXELS

It’s not all about grammar

When I first came to Write, I thought good writing was as simple as being grammatically correct.

Now I’ve realised that it’s actually more about putting your reader first. Clear, reader-friendly communication is something everyone can master if they care about it. Too often we click ‘send’, knowing our writing is confusing when a couple of extra moments could save us hours later on.

I’d like to think that now when people read my emails they can understand and act on them — and that’s what being a good business writer is all about.

You’ll find lots more writing tips on our brilliant 1-day workshop in Business Writing. Tell them I sent you!

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7 responses to “How to fake being good at writing”

  1. MichaelEdits says:

    I have some thoughts. I write them down. In a different time and place, you read my words one time and you know exactly what I was thinking. That’s good writing.

    My words are not only possible to understand. They are impossible to misunderstand. And, in fact, they are easy to understand. That’s good writing.

    There’s no reason to make it more complicated than that. You can learn how to do the other stuff and/or outsource it.

  2. Great read – can definitely identify with this! Question – I tend to use hyphens on occasion in sentences (like that one just there) should that then actually be an em dash?

    • CleoIggy says:

      Hi Jennifer

      So glad you enjoyed! Yes, technically you should use an Em dash (or an En dash) in that sentence. However, hyphens are becoming more and more acceptable especially in social media and online programs that don’t easily allow dashes. I think it’s because so many of us reply to emails on our phones, where using an Em dash is tricky. I’d say try and get into the habit of using Em dashes in important emails, but for shorter emails you can probably get away with a hyphen! Or you could try the old double hyphen trick — to indicate a longer dash!

      Cleo

  3. Corinna Lines says:

    StationERy = paper (ER)
    StationARy = parked (AR)

    Keep up the good work, Cleo!

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