Before writing anything, whether it’s a text message or a business plan, ask yourself:
- Who am I in this piece of writing?
- Am I an expert in this field?
- Am I neutral on the topic or do I have a strong view to share?
These questions are reminders of the persona (or mask) the writer assumes for a piece. For example, the writer of a cover letter attached to a job resume has a very different “persona” than does the writer of a chatty letter to a grandparent. You’ll need to adopt some valuable lessons that can be applied to your target audience in the office, or job market.
Know your audience
It doesn’t matter whether the writing is a blog post or a legal brief. The principle is the same: good writers know their audience. These questions help:
- What does the reader know about the topic?
- How does the reader feel about the topic?
If the reader doesn’t know the topic, explanations are needed. If the reader opposes the writer’s view of the topic, care should be taken. Students learn about specific argument strategies that help writers reach agreement with opponents. This will be especially helpful in professional meetings where you have multiple viewpoints, some of which may be opposing. You’ll need to understand how to collaborate with the difference of opinions, and how to make it work for the project and topic at hand.
You must be adaptable in your approach. Satire may be fun for a lighthearted topic, but it is not a good idea when writing about, say, euthanasia. If the topic is serious, the approach should be too.
Be clear on your purpose
Effective writing requires clear understanding of purpose. These questions help:
- What am I trying to do?
- Am I trying to inform? Entertain? Persuade?
The skill of writing, no matter what your industry, is highly sought-after in the workforce. Taking these simple steps before, and during the writing process, will only help to develop and focus your writing style into a tangible working product worth boasting about in your next interview.
By Susan Lowman-Thomas
Full-time instructor in English, American Public University