Ready to improve your resume and cover letter? Prepared to get attention from blog entries and freelance writing? Want to be a better writer for your career? Then here are three strategies for sharpening your writing skills.
- Be concise by using active voice.
What sounds better: the work was done by me or I did the work? The latter reads more easily because it is in active voice. Cogent sentences are easy to understand and get the reader’s attention, while passive voice encourages the use of extraneous words. Therefore, however, thus, hence, moreover, and consequently are words that should seldom be used. Active voice is straightforward and has energy because it relies on verbs. Your reader doesn’t want to be tired or bored by your writing, especially if you’re selling your brand (through a resume or cover letter). You will stand out if each of your sentences is clear and rich in content.
- Put yourself in your reader’s shoes.
Many people don’t consider their audience when writing. They think that readers will be willing to sift through long sentences and loosely-connected material. Not so! Readers like clear content and not having to work for the meaning; a sentence that is unclear to your reader may deter him from continuing to read. That’s why you need to read each sentence that you write aloud. If you trip over any part of your sentence, go back and revise it. If two paragraphs don’t seem relevant to each other, make a closing sentence for the first paragraph. Your audience may also trip if they don’t know how two parts of your argument are connected.
Practicing these techniques will make them more natural. If you see passive sentences online, try curtailing them. For example, if I wrote “this was written by me”, how would you change this to active voice? You can also practice by editing an old paper or blog entry. What sentences do you trip over? What parts of the argument may seem incongruent to the reader? Remember that you’re writing for an audience, not yourself.
Incorporate these strategies into your successive works, and see what happens.