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Learning the Write Stuff

Andrew Miller and Mandy de WaalAspirant business leaders often lose sight of the fact that writing and communicating are integral to conducting business well. Writing is a skill that can be honed, but it’s a lot like going to gym. It requires discipline and routine exercise. Writers MANDY DE WAAL and ANDREW MILLER show you how.

Writing well is all in the ability to love words and commit to a regular workout. This is no less true in business than it is in creative writing.

The first thing we tell people who want to write well is to read, read and read some more, because reading offers an understanding of language and the different uses and style of language. If you want to be a good writer then you need to read multiple styles. If Cosmopolitan or Loaded is a permanent fixture on your bedside stand and you’re deeply involved in the guts of business, you will need to develop a more engaging business style. Next time reach for a Business Day, Mail & Guardian, Sunday Independent or Maverick to help you hone your business writing style.

There are four golden rules of writing for business:

1. Tone & targeting

When writing for business you need to adjust your tone and the way you use your language to suit a number of given situations. In some instances your writing will need to be formal, while in other instances it should be informal. You need to tailor your language to different writing vehicles and styles. This is the most basic challenge any writer faces, whether you are a professional or not. To develop a more versatile writing style, read outside your comfort zone because you get lazy when you just read in your comfort zone and don’t broaden your skill set. If you can expand your horizon then you’ll notice the influence on your writing immediately. You will see the different style coming through quite quickly, in as little time as a week or two.

2. Read to write well

If you want to become and ace communicator it is a matter or reading, and then engaging in a daily workout. To become a good writer you need to write consistently. Write every day as an exercise, and not according to need. This is a lot like going to the gym. If you want to grow muscle you must follow an exercise regime. Similarly if you want growth as a writer you must set yourself a strict exercise regime and stick to it. Humans are naturally lazy and anything that requires regular commitment and discipline is difficult because your life attention naturally wanders onto other things.

3. Flex your writing muscles

Why bother with all the effort? Why not just get a writing coach who can open the door of magical lyrical language? Unfortunately as with personal training, a coach can take you to the bar bells, show you how to use them, but won’t ever be able to build muscle by bench-pressing for you. The coach is only going to help you when you are committed. If you aren’t committed then a writing coach isn’t going to help any. If you want to develop the skill you must read, write and have a passion for words. If you have a natural passion for language and the way it impacts on life then you will have an emotional ability to reinforce the technical exercise of writing. You need the emotional commitment to the skill you are developing to be able to flex your writing muscles.

4. Great communicators are often successful

The pay off is huge. People who can communicate compellingly in the written and spoken form become influential and successful business people. Good writing is communication and communication is the substance of life. If you can communicate effectively you will be a powerful person in business and in your normal life. This is especially true in South Africa where communicating across cultures and barriers is important. If you can succinctly express the position you come from to a person from another position you will open doors of relationship that normally stay shut.

  • Mandy de Waal is a writer and freelance journalist. Read her blog here.
  • Andrew Miller is a poet, writer and editorial consultant. He owns the independent publishing house, Gecko Publishing.

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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