In this column, Vista provides practical tips to help you write clearly and concisely, including best practices for using Microsoft Word. Please leave suggestions for future posts in the comments. Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss a tip!
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When you’ve written a document, it can be hard to assess its quality objectively. This is because the creative process is very different from the evaluative process. It’s tough to step back from your writing and look at the document with fresh eyes. Additionally, it’s difficult to “see the forest for the trees” because you, as the author, are so familiar with the details of the content that judging it as a whole is challenging. This article provides you with a few tips that can help.
- Read it out loud. It might seem awkward at first, but reading your document out loud activates a different part of the brain than reading it in your head does. This helps you get past the narrow focus of the writer and into the mind of your audience.
- Proofread a hard copy. Like the tip above, this one helps you to read your document with fresh eyes because typically at work we read documents on a screen. Print out a hard copy, grab a pen and mark up your document before revising it on your computer.
- Let it sit. Whenever possible, after you’ve finished a document, try to forget about it for a day or two before coming back to it. It’s very difficult to consider a document objectively when you’re just finished writing it – your brain needs some space and distance.
- Avoid editing as you go. This is a particularly common pitfall. Just get the document written and don’t worry about making it perfect. Write the whole thing before coming back to revise it.
- Use a checklist. Many of us become familiar with problems that crop up repeatedly in our own work, whether they be misspellings, grammatical errors or overused phrases. Keep a list of these, and when you finish a document, run through it to catch them.