Good writing is correct writing and much more. Good writers follow correct usage and observe the rules of good writing. In this chapter, we will study at length areas such as grammar, structure of paragraphs and sentences, punctuation, selection of words, style of writing, spelling and such other essentials relevant for good writing.
Good writing comes from a clear understanding of all relevant rules and usages. Good writing is absent when any of the following is present— grammatical errors, unstructured paragraphs, incomplete sentences, dull and inappropriate words, punctuation mistakes, poor writing style, weak word power or vocabulary, incorrect usage and misspelling.
The ability to write effectively grows along with the grasp of these fundamentals. Learning the rules of good writing is therefore a sine qua non or a must for anyone desirous of becoming an effective writer.
Each aspect mentioned above is so vast that it is amenable for lifelong learning. There can be no end to learning. Good writers, therefore, are constantly on the learning mode. One must start, however, with learning fundamentals.
The first essential of good writing is correct writing or writing without committing errors. Studying a good book on English grammar, making effective use of a dictionary or thesaurus to build vocabulary and learning to spell correctly are the fundamentals and essential starting points.
As a corollary, a good book on grammar, a Standard English dictionary and preferably a thesaurus are desirable companions for any aspiring good writer. Once the fundamentals are grasped, polishing, refinement and mastering different styles of writing become a passion and a lifelong endeavour.
2. Grammatical Correctness:
Every language has a grammar. In fact, the grammar comes into being even before the language itself gets written. If you look up the dictionary, grammar is described as the accepted rules by which words are formed and combined into sentences.
It is a description of these rules as applied to a language. Grammar is nothing but the logic or discipline relating to a language. That explains why grammar becomes so important to any language. Good writing is therefore grammatically correct writing.
What is acceptable in spoken English may not necessarily be so in written English. Grammar deals with rules of writing or generalizations that are generally true. For example, every sentence in English must have a subject and a verb.
If these rules are not followed, whatever be the other merits of writing, it fails to be counted as good writing. What is being emphasized here is grammatical correctness of writing such that there are no noticeable and obvious errors. Grammar is a vast subject and mastery over it does not come easily.
You may or may not master and remember every grammatical definition such as a dangling modifier or conjunctive adverb or intransitive verb or a modal auxiliary. Nevertheless, what is absolutely essential is the ability to identify and avoid an obvious grammatical error.
Let us start with some simple examples. Look at the following sentences. They contain grammatical mistakes, punctuation errors and spelling mistakes:
i. She doesn’t talk properly.
ii. Everyone is busy with his examinations.
iii. I could not able to come yesterday.
iv. If in case suppose you does not come, I will go alone.
v. Peoples are working in groups.
vi. If I miss the train I can’t reach on time.
vii. When did you come?
viii. You are going there are you?
ix. Bye and bye you will learn more and more.
x. The captain told the batsman you should run faster.
xi. Today’s match is between England and sri lanka.
xii. Since the principle is very strict every students enter the class before the peon ring the bell.
xiii. I teach mathematics occasionally & find that many students are week in subject.
xiv. In the hot summer whether I prefer to wear loose cloth.
xv. Since I was tired, I lied on the bench.
3. Paragraphs and Sentences:
A paragraph is a group of sentences covering or describing a central idea. Good writers take care to organize their paragraphs sequentially and ensure that each paragraph is well structured. Paragraphs can be long and short depending on the central idea that needs to be conveyed.
The length of the paragraph depends upon the details that the writer wants to cover in that paragraph. Every paragraph essentially consists of topic sentences and supporting sentences.
Such mistakes committed knowingly or unknowingly mar your writing and make a poor impression on the reader. Remember that these are undoubtedly examples of bad English. Good writing has zero tolerance for bad grammar.
A topic sentence is the key sentence of the paragraph. Good business writers usually start the paragraph with a topic sentence. It describes the key thought that is elaborated and substantiated in the following support sentences.
Although some writers use the key sentences in the middle of the paragraph, opening the paragraph with a topic sentence makes the writing much more effective. When you start a paragraph with a topic sentence, the reader knows exactly what will be dealt with in the subsequent sentences.
Some examples of a topic sentence introducing the central theme of the paragraph to the reader are given below:
i. The bank achieved significantly higher profits during the year.
ii. The company suffered a severe setback during the quarter.
iii. Communication is a process that involves six different steps.
iv. Sport plays an important role in character building.
v. While preparing a resume, it is important to know what a good resume can achieve.
Each of the sentences above introduces a key message or thought that should be elaborated by supporting sentences. Depending upon the nature of the reader and what details the writer wants to share, the topic sentence is developed into a full paragraph with the help of supporting sentences.
Towards the end of the paragraph, the central thought is often reiterated or summarized for greater impact. A support sentence, as noted already, elaborates, substantiates and takes forward the central theme.
By its very definition, a support sentence does not bring a new idea or thought that is not in alignment with the topic sentence. The beauty of the paragraph gets enhanced when every support sentence adds clarity and further dimension to the key thought expressed in the beginning.
A good paragraph should also necessarily consist of unity and coherence. A paragraph has unity when every sentence in the paragraph revolves around a particular idea or thought. Unity ensures that there is no unrelated sentence or idea in the paragraph.
Similarly, coherence brings in logic or consistency of thoughts. Ideas are developed in a logical order within the paragraph. Good writers learn to make their paragraph convincing and interesting. Such paragraphs are neither too long nor too short.
When you are writing a letter, it is desirable to keep each paragraph somewhat short. If you are writing a report or a lengthy article or text message, you may keep paragraphs relatively long.
If you are giving instructions through a memo or a circular letter, it is better to keep the paragraphs short. The grasp or absorption of the idea is easier in short paragraphs. If paragraphs extend beyond a page, reading gets tedious.
Take care of your paragraphs and your writing becomes effective. To sum up, a paragraph is a section of a piece of writing of variable length, starting on a fresh, often indented, line and dealing with a distinct point or idea. Make sure that every paragraph of yours starts with an indent or an appropriate margin.
Good writers develop logical paragraphs. Logical paragraphs are those which move from idea to idea in an organized manner. While each paragraph itself is self contained in terms of a specific idea, the sequencing of paragraphs is such that the message is presented step by step.
Developing paragraphs logically and sequentially calls for advance planning. The writer should be clear in his or her mind about the entire message and in what order it should be presented.
Whether it is a letter or a memorandum or a report or a brochure or any such piece of writing, the writer should mentally organize the entire message before breaking it into appropriate paragraphs.
Each paragraph should be such that one idea stands out. As we have noted already, unity, coherence and well thought out sequentially developed topics will lead to the development of logical paragraphs. Keeping them short will help in engaging the reader.
Talking about the length of the paragraphs, while no hard and fast rule can be laid down, about 6-8 sentences on an average (per paragraph) would help in making the writing reader friendly, and 8-14 words in a sentence is ideal.
There can be no meaningful writing without a sentence. Words by themselves cannot convey much until they are put together in the form of a sentence. A sentence is defined as a sequence of words forming a meaningful grammatical structure that can stand alone as a complete utterance.
In written English, a sentence usually begins with a capital letter and ends with a period, question mark or exclamation mark. Sentences can make or mar your writing. Put life and meaning into your sentences and they convey the message you wish to convey.
Sentences are of many kinds— long or short, topic or support sentences and simple or compound. Each of them has relevance and its own place in effective writing.
Like we have discussed in respect of paragraphs, sentences too can be long or short. It is possible to write very long sentences. In fact, in written English literature, there are examples of sentences that stretch up to 300 words.
There are many examples in company manuals and reports where sentences run up to 40-50 or even more words. Long and winding sentences that are loaded with ideas, one after the other, certainly hamper readability.
The reader has to make extra efforts to grasp the message. The sentence has to be read again and again (repeatedly to make sense). In the exhibit under the chapter on Internal Communication (Chapter 7), we have noted that readability is the process by which writing and speech are judged for their level of acceptance.
Readability suffers when the sentences stretch beyond an acceptable length. This acceptable length depends upon the nature of writing and the target readers. If you are addressing someone who is already well informed about the subject and whose reading and comprehension abilities are fairly high, somewhat longer sentences should be acceptable.
If you are giving instructions or introducing the subject or writing to someone whose reading and comprehension abilities are not high, it is better to keep your sentences simple and short. Generally speaking, short sentences are those with about 10-12 words.
While short sentences are desirable, they may not always be appropriate in conveying the message. A good writer needs to make the sentences longer depending upon the content and context. We cannot prescribe a standard uniform length for writing under all circumstances.
Any such strait jacket approach would certainly restrain the writer’s effectiveness. There is no need to ensure a uniform length for all your sentences. Make it short. Make it long. Make it meaningful and interesting. More importantly, make your sentences reader friendly.
4. Selection of Words:
Words make your writing. Effective writers know how to choose their words. Covering the subject of vocabulary or word power under the chapter of Business Letters (Chapter 6), we have dealt at length on the significance of word building and how to go about it. Let us take a look at these two sentences:
i. The consequences of delaying action are obvious.
ii. But as the real economy worsens, there will be a ricochet effect and banks and investors will continue to be affected by the developing crisis and the losses in the real economy.
The first one is a short sentence with only seven words. The second one is a long sentence with 31 words. Both are relevant and convey the intended message. In any good writing, such long and short sentences both co-exist. Every idea cannot be simplified and stated in a less than 10-word sentence. What a good writer tends to do is to use both short and long sentences keeping in view the readability of the target group.
We have noted that building a vast repertoire of words is both an opportunity and a challenge. We have also noted that words and ideas are the raw material that an effective writer requires in abundant supply. Copious supply of words and ideas is a must to build an appealing writing and style. In the following paragraphs, we shall be studying in greater detail how one can go about choosing the right words.
Unlike a speaker, a writer has time to improve his or her writing. Good writers do not necessarily use the first word that comes to their mind. They stretch into their vocabulary. They delve into their word power and pick up the most appropriate words. Every word, indeed, has many equivalents.
Good writing is a progressive accomplishment. One develops and evolves as a competent writer over the years. If you do not accept the first or easiest option and are determined to aim at consistent improvement, your writing gets progressively better.
Let us look at the vocabulary of a beginner. If he or she has limited word power and uses the first option, his or her writing would be somewhat like this:
I. The mu sic was good. 2 The lunch was tasty.
3. The coffee was very nice.
4. The climate is pleasant.
5. The movie was funny.
6. It was a year of good performance.
7. He secured very low marks.
8. The situation is very bad.
9. He mentioned it again.
10. Her face showed no emotion or feeling.
11. It was a year of very ordinary performance.
12. The performance of the team was extremely good.
Apparently, there is nothing wrong with these sentences. They are simple and do convey the meaning in general. But as the writer makes progress and addresses a more informed audience, the same ideas may have to be expressed more specifically.
At the first level, writers tend to use words such as good, bad, ordinary, simple, nice and pleasant. But as their word power improves, they will bring into play words that have greater vigour or words that are more exact. Let us look at the same ideas that we conveyed earlier and see how we can use different words.
1. The music was melodious.
2. The lunch was delicious.
3. The coffee was exquisite.
4. The climate is salubrious.
5. The movie was hilarious.
6. It was a year of robust performance.
7. He secured abysmally low marks.
8. The situation is grave.
9. He reiterated it.
10. Her face was impassive.
11. It was a year of lacklustre performance,
12. The performance of the team was superb/exceptional.
We can see from the above sentences, how the writer’s ability to convey ideas and feelings improves as more equivalents become available. The choice of words available to a writer while writing thus depends on his or her repertoire of words and how readily they come to the writer’s mind.
Good writers know how to economize on words. If you can convey the intended meaning with fewer words, your effectiveness improves. The following examples suggest how one can write with fewer words.
Instead of Use
In the near future Soon
In the same manner Likewise
In the region of About
Within a short time Shortly
Without intending it Inadvertently
With full knowledge Consciously
From this time onwards Henceforth
In view thereof Hence
Once in a while Occasionally
It is absolutely essential It is imperative
If the need arises If necessary
Please send your reply at the earliest Please reply expeditiously
What we have given above are just some examples. In everyday business writing, there would be many such occasions where a good writer can avoid unnecessary words.
5. Choosing Words with Right Strength and Vigour:
English language has a fascinating world of words. As we have noted earlier in the chapter on Business Letters (Chapter 6), the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2000 edition) gives as many as 80,000 words and references covering both British and American English.
That English is a fast growing language becomes evident when we note that the number of words has grown substantially in the latest edition. Similarly, Roget’s Thesaurus presents a superb coverage of varied shades of meanings of all English words.
Whatever be the words the writer is familiar with, if he or she looks for the equivalents in thesaurus, choosing the right words becomes so easy. As such, these make a ready source of reference for an aspiring good writer.
English is a dynamic language. It means that new words get added and over a period or time, some words go out of fashion. Good writers learn to discard outdated words and use contemporary words. Writing becomes dull and weak when the writer uses those words that are not in current use in business. Just as new words get added, old words get deleted.
For example, words like anent, ultimo and proximo that were used frequently a few decades earlier are now outdated. The Chambers 21s‘ Dictionary refers to collecting 500 words and meanings every month and a 100-million word database of written and spoken English that supports their dictionary.
The Oxford Thesaurus of English (second edition) contains well over 6, 00,000 words. There are 16,000 entries arranged in the alphabetical order and for each entry or word, there are an average of 38 alternatives. The writer needs to know any one of these words to know more about the range of alternatives available.
The thesaurus also contains the ‘choose the right word’ panels that amplify meanings of alternative words and help in selecting the most appropriate word. Examples of some such ‘choose the right word’ panels are as follows:
i. Outdo, excel, surpass
ii. Kind, kindly, benevolent
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.
iii. Independence, liberty, freedom
iv. Forbid, ban, prohibit
v. Flourish, thrive, and prosper
vi. Serene, calm, tranquil, placid, peaceful
Such a choice certainly helps the writer in choosing words with strength and vigour depending upon the context and the level of the target group. Apart from the strength of vocabulary or word power, writing with vigour also calls for a conscious effort at writing better. Editing or revising what is written helps in this endeavour.
After writing the piece of communication, he or she should sit back and read it and make appropriate revisions. Unless you are an extremely accomplished writer, there is always scope for revising your writing by inserting more appropriate words.
Another rule relevant for good writing relates to avoiding repetition of words. Using the same word repeatedly in every sentence makes for dull writing. Repeat the words, if necessary, for emphasis, otherwise, take care to avoid repetitive use of words, ideas and phrases.
Jargon relates to the use of specialized terminology specific to a particular trade, profession or sport. Accordingly, there is legal jargon, computer jargon, military jargon and accounting jargon. Jargon here refers to a set of technical words frequently used by people in that particular trade or profession.
Good writers must follow these rules in using jargon. The first rule is to use it sparingly. Any writing, to be effective, should be reader friendly. Use the jargon or technical terms only if the reader is familiar with them. Do not presume that the reader understands the jargon. Jargons can also be expressed in plain English. Let us look at some examples of jargon.
To file a caveat, to order an arraignment, to file a habeas corpus petition.
Redundancies, access privileges, megabytes.
Using jargon while writing for the uninformed makes them wonders if the writer is serious about reaching out to them. If at all jargon is to be used, it should be used with proper explanation at the very first instance so that the reader understands.
Jargon certainly has its place in professional writing. While writing to people in the same profession or while making job applications for technical positions, jargon can be used to create the right impact.
In business communication, we differentiate between business-business (B2B) and business-customer (B2C) communication. Jargon may be relevant in a B2B communication. But when it comes to B2C communication, jargon, if used, should be clearly explained.
Brochures, product descriptions, how-to-use manuals, advertising and direct mailing and such other writing targeted at the customers, and prospects should make the technical terms clear to the reader. In fact, it is the job of technical writers and copy writers to describe the processes and explain the jargon for easy understanding by the reader.
Good writers avoid sexist language and use gender-neutral words. The world of business today accommodates a growing number of women. Workplaces are no longer male dominated as they used to be.
Similarly, market research studies have shown that women play an important role in making decisions in buying products and using services. Good writers, therefore, should be inclusive writers.
Modern writing emphasizes a non- sexist, non-discriminatory approach to business writing. Sexist language suggests prejudice against women and often excludes women. Sometimes the words or terms we use may exclude either men or women. Let us look at some examples of sexist words and how can they be made gender neutral.
Sexist Gender Neutral
Stewardess Flight attendant
Manpower Human Resource
Apart from using gender-neutral words as suggested above, good writers should also ensure that their sentences are not sexist. For example, the sentence ‘A good writer keeps his writing short and simple’ is sexist.
Instead you may say, ‘A good writer keeps his or her writing short and simple.’ Another way of ensuring gender neutrality is by making it plural. You may say, ‘Good writers keep their writing short and simple.’ Yet another way is to just say, ‘Good writing is short and simple.’
Gender-neutral writing also relates to avoiding masculine words. Masculine words are generally used in a male-dominated society. Masculine words exclude women. Today’s organizations call themselves equal opportunity employers.
Masculine words generally start or end with ‘man’. We have seen some masculine words already such as businessman, salesman, workman, spokesman and chairman. Those beginning with ‘man’ include man-hours, man-days, manhunt, man-made and mankind.
While reasonable efforts should be made to avoid masculine words and make the writing inclusive, it cannot be stretched beyond a point. Some words like man-eater, manhandle and manslaughter may have to be accepted as non-sexist words.
Similarly, the word ‘manageress’ though refers to a female manager of a business is considered offensive and not usually used in official titles. It is desirable to use the word manager to refer to someone who manages be it a ‘he’ or a ‘she.’
Good writers should also make it a point to avoid cliches and hackneyed or trite phrases. Cliches and trite phrases make writing dull and boring. Cliches are overused expressions. Cliches are described as once striking and effective phrases or combination of words that have become stale and hackneyed due to overuse.
Some examples of cliches are—’last but not the least’, ‘achieve greater heights’, ‘thanking you in anticipation’ and ‘there is no room for complacency.’ One comes across such phrases so often, both in written and spoken English that the audience finds them dull and lacklustre.
Similarly, some phrases are used so rampantly that these expressions have lost their freshness and effectiveness. They are described as trite or hackneyed. A hackneyed phrase is something that is commonplace or banal.
Some overused phrases in business writing are— ‘assuring you of our best services always’, ‘leave no stone unturned’, ‘needless to say’ and giving a thoughtful consideration.’ Such phrases are used in such a routine manner that the reader sees no sincerity behind these statements.
A spelling is a group of letters used in a certain sequence to describe the words. Every word is made up of letters. Just as it is imperative to know the right word for every idea, it is also essential to know the right way of spelling the word. Spellings are fixed or specific. Everyone must spell in the prescribed manner.
Any deviation is unacceptable. What is not spelt correctly is an error. Incorrect spelling makes the writing shoddy and exposes the writer. Not only that, incorrect spelling may even change the meaning of the word.
A word is spelt properly when the right set of letters is used. Also, they should be used in the exact sequence. Spellings carry a precision that must be followed by a good writer. There can be no good writer with a bad spelling.
7. Good News, Bad News and Persuasive Writing:
Good news writing relates to communicating messages which the reader finds pleasant and is keen to receive. Instances of good news include the following:
i. A request for a loan is considered favourably.
ii. A job applicant has been selected.
iii. An employee has been promoted.
Good news is best communicated in a direct manner. Your opening sentence should start on a pleasant note. Cover the good news in brief sentences. Follow a friendly tone. Convey the positive content of the message. Avoid irrelevant details. Do not wait till the end of the letter to convey the good news.
If the good news has a limiting factor or a portion that is not considered favourable, put it across in a positive manner. Make sure the letter or writing leaves a positive impression in tune with the content of the letter. Otherwise, the good news will be accompanied by poor writing.
Bad news letters are those that convey an unpleasant message. The reader is likely to be disappointed. It may relate to failure in a test or interview, rejection of a raise or promotion, lay off or retrenchment or any such event that would be unpleasant to the receiver.
The drafting of a bad news message has to be done with more care than a good news letter. The writer should visualize the extent of shock or hurt that would be caused to the recipient. Choose words that will soften the impact of the message.
Explain what is essential. Take care to avoid being blunt or hurtful or apologetic. State the facts and avoid being judgmental. Be polite. Whether you should give the bad news direct and upfront or after some explanation depends upon the content and your relationship with the recipient.
Elsewhere in this book (Chapter 18), we have discussed crisis management and the sensitivity under the heading ‘Communication in a Crisis’.
Persuasive messages constitute a challenging task for any good writer. Here the writer has to go beyond a mere statement of fact. The writer has to not merely inform, but has to go beyond and persuade. Persuasive messages call for planning in advance and working out an appropriate strategy.
The writer should have adequate information about the recipient of the communication. Persuasive communication should generally cover the following:
1. Gain reader’s attention.
2 Make your opening statement so as to get the reader interested in what you want to say.
3. State clearly and reason out.
4. Anticipate probable resistance and try to address it.
5. End by seeking action.
The objective of any persuasive message is to seek the desired action. Your strategy will determine what would be the most appropriate approach for persuading the reader. Persuasion succeeds when the reader is induced, convinced or prevailed upon to act as intended.
Whether to make an emotional appeal, or to follow a strong logical approach or emphasize the benefits or advantages depends upon the subject and the target group. Brochures, pamphlets and other advertising material, direct mailers and sales letters are some examples where persuasive communication becomes relevant. Often, persuasion calls for repetitive communication. The initial message may have to be followed up by follow-up letters and messages.
8. Some Common Mistakes:
Good writers should learn how to avoid some common mistakes in English writing. They should know how to use the right word and avoid the inappropriate word. Let us look at the following examples:
i. My manager was wearing the same shirt. (The right expression is similar, not same.)
ii. The judge interfered when the lawyers started fighting. (The right expression is intervening, not interfere.)
iii. The general manager appraised the chairman about the incident. (The right word is apprised, not appraise.)
iv. The pilot manipulated the aircraft very well. (The right word is maneuvered, not manipulated.)
While both the words mentioned above appear to convey the same meaning, in fact it is not so. Some words like interfere or manipulate even carry a negative connotation. Good writers understand the subtle differences and avoid using incorrect and negative words.
Similarly, some other common mistakes we see in the Indian context are the following:
i. You should return back the umbrella by evening. (Return back is incorrect. Just say return.)
ii. He is my cousin brother. (Just say cousin. Not cousin brother)
iii. Both of them are my brother-in-laws. (You should say brothers-in- law not brother-in-laws.)
iv. This playground is meant for children’s. (The right word is children, not children’s.)
v. The Board meeting has been proponed. (The right word is advanced.) We have just looked at some examples to suggest how some common mistakes creep into our writing. A careful observer knows how to avoid such mistakes.
Using words inappropriately results in shoddy writing. Let us look at some examples:
i. John & Tara met after several years.
ii. Bangalore & Mysore & Mangalore are in Karnataka.
iii. The General Manager & the Area Manager attended the meeting.
iv. Let us meet & discuss the matter in detail.
In these sentences instead of ‘and’, its abbreviation is used (&). Although the meaning is conveyed, the writing is unimpressive. A good writer knows when to use ‘and’ and when not to use ‘&’. Let us look at the following examples:
i. M/S Mahindra & Mahindra is a reputed firm.
ii. Ramkumar & Sons is in the business since long.
In the above stated sentences, the abbreviated version is not out of place
Likewise, there are some rules to be observed while referring to numerals. As a general rule, use numerals for larger numbers and spell them out if they are in single digits.
9. Grammar Rules:
At the beginning of this chapter, we have noted how important it is to ensure grammatical correctness. Since bad grammar stands out like a sore thumb and mars elegance of writing, let us study more about the subject.
Grammar is learnt the hard way. One should read a good book on grammar to understand and appreciate the fundamentals. It is a fairly vast subject and calls for a dedicated step-by-step approach. What we propose to do here is to look at some examples of incorrect grammar and bad English.
10. Three-Stage Process:
Any good writing is essentially a three-stage process. We have already noted that good writing is no accident. It comes out of organized efforts. Effective speaking, it is worth noting, is also a three-stage process.
It involves planning, preparation and practice. Likewise, effective writing involves a three-stage process. It involves pre-writing, writing and revising. No good writing happens in one draft, unless you are the most accomplished writer.
We have already noted the essentials of good writing. These include grammatical correctness, well-developed paragraphs and sentences, focus, unity, coherence and logical sequencing, careful selection of words, correct spellings, gender neutrality, balance and readability.
It is indeed difficult to accomplish all this at one go. That is why good writing is described as a three-stage process. Let us take a close look at each of the three steps.
Pre-writing is the first step in any good writing. It involves planning and preparation. It also involves gaining clarity on the objectives of writing what does the writing propose to achieve?
We have noted earlier that any communication has multiple objectives, such as co inform, to motivate, to educate, to clarify, to caution, to persuade, to covey good news and bad news and so on. Depending upon what he/she wants to achieve, the writer should organize his/her thinking.
Such writing would cover not merely letters and simple messages, but also memos, circulars, representations, proposals, reports, resumes, theme or keynote addresses, persuasive letters and so on.
They are of a wide variety and address a variety of target sections such as employees, customers, trainees, decision makers, media, executives and the like. Clarity and focus in every case are a must.
Pre-writing is also described as mind travelling. Mind travelling relates to building a vision of what you propose to write. It relates to organizing the thoughts—what to say, how to say, what style to adopt, where to emphasize, how many pages to write and so on.
Pre-writing also relates to collecting all relevant information such as names and designation, addresses, previous correspondence, target profile, facts and figures and so on. One essential item that this author recommends is to keep a dictionary or thesaurus handy for reference. Pre-writing is thus a combination of men .1 and physical steps. It is a process that ensures preparedness.
The next step is actual writing. Here you prepare the first draft. You write your paragraphs and sentences in a logical sequence. You draft your topic sentences and support sentences. You put across the content and bring out the message you want to convey.
If it is a letter, you keep in view the essentials of letter writing such as the introduction, content, closing, salutation, etc. If it is a proposal or a report, much more intense efforts would be involved.
Not only the content in terms of facts and figures, recommendations and conclusions, but also tables, charts, annexures and the like should receive due attention.
If it is a keynote address or a persuasive or motivational communication, all the three areas, viz., introduction, body and conclusion or closing should be appropriately covered.
Writing is the most essential aspect of the three-stage process. Writing relates to writing with a purpose, writing with clarity and writing for effect. Writing should be in tune with the context and the main objective. Writing should be goal oriented.
The writer should make sure that what he/she set out to achieve in the pre-writing stage is actually achieved in the writing stage. The draft of the letter or memo or the proposal or the report covers all the features as visualized in a manner that has been already been pre-planned. The writing should have appeal and create the requisite impact. The writing should have positive approach and strive for effectiveness.
Revision is the final step in the process of writing. To revise a write-up means (1) to examine the writing again in order to identify and correct faults, (2) to improve it or to take new circumstances into account, (3) to bring up to date, (4) to study or look at the contents once again and (5) to reconsider and amend. Good writers know how to do revision to bring about the desired impact, completeness and balance.
Revision essentially involves two steps, viz., editing and correction.
Editing relates to going through or examining the draft once again thoroughly to make improvements. Editing would consist of (1) ensuring that the writing conveys the key message as intended, (2) the language used is appropriate for the target group, (3) the message is concise, clear and consistent, (4) the words used are vibrant, contemporary and gender neutral where appropriate, (5) the names, addresses, designations, etc., are correct and duly updated, (6) ensuring that the latest developments are duly factored and (7) eliminating all loose ends, inconsistencies, hackneyed and confusing phrases, and amplifying technical words and jargon, if any.
Editing also consists of proof reading. Editing calls for a sharp eye for spotting deficiencies and making refinements. Editors of newspapers, magazines, books and publications are people who are adept at making thorough revisions and refinements to the drafts and enhancing the content and readability of the writing.
Correction is the other facet of revision. No matter how much care the writer takes while preparing the draft, there are bound to be errors. These errors would relate to grammar, spellings, punctuation, figures, capitalization and usage. Elsewhere in this chapter, we have noted some common mistakes that creep into writing. A good writer takes care to identify all such errors and makes appropriate corrections.