Improving your written communication is an important goal regardless of the profession you have or the stage of life you are in. Learning to choose the right words, construct correctly structured paragraphs, avoid common grammar mistakes, and write concisely will help you become a better writer and effectively communicate your ideas to a wide variety of audiences.
Method 1 of 4: Choose the Right Words
Step 1. Take your audience into account
It is important to choose the right words depending on your readers. For example, you can use formal language to send a message to your boss or to write a draft cover letter for a job offer. Leave informal language, such as "Hello," for emails you send to family and close friends.
Step 2. Explain the unknown concepts, terms, and facts when necessary
Choosing the right words also means making clear to your audience those words or phrases that they don't know.
- For example, if you are writing about new technologies, you will have to explain the technology terms that appear in your writing or email, since your audience may not find information about them in previous documents.
- In other cases, your audience may understand the technology terms, so you don't need to explain them.
Step 3. Make sure you know the definition of the words you use
One of the most common mistakes in written communication is the misuse of some words. Often times, you may think you know what a word means, but in fact, it could mean something completely different.
- For example, you can write that Native Americans are not a monotonous culture, when in reality what you mean is that they are not a homogeneous culture.
- Ask yourself, "Am I sure I know the definition of this word?"
- Use a dictionary to look up the definition of words that you are not sure you know the meaning of.
Step 4. Beware of unwanted connotations
Sometimes you can write a sentence without realizing that the words you have chosen suggest an unwanted meaning. For example, you can write "I bring a hunger of dogs", when in fact you wanted to say "I am very hungry"
Step 5. Get away from cliches
A cliche is a phrase that has been overused until its original meaning or effect is completely lost. You should avoid these hackneyed and stereotypical phrases if you want to improve your written communication skills. Instead of writing “A stone's throw”, try writing “very close”, or instead of writing “question”, just write “question”.
Step 6. Choose the correct words and structure for each specific form of writing
It is important to understand that each type of communication has different requirements. An email, for example, has different requirements than a corporate report. Similarly, a letter to an insurance company is written differently from an employee policy manual.
- Use a professional tone when writing a business letter or formal email.
- You can use informal language when writing a letter or when writing an email to a friend.
Method 2 of 4: Build Structured Paragraphs
Step 1. Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence
A topic sentence is one that contains the central topic idea of the paragraph. This sentence helps your reader know what the content of the paragraph is and what to expect when reading it. Although advanced writers can introduce the topic sentence in the middle, or even at the end of the paragraph, it is a good idea for those writers who are beginning to develop their skills to include the topic sentence at the beginning of the paragraph.
For example, if you are writing a paragraph about different breeds of dogs, you can start with a topic sentence like "There are 200 different breeds of dogs."
Step 2. Use secondary sentences to develop the topic of the paragraph
Once you've presented the content of the paragraph with the topic sentence, use the next 2-3 sentences to describe, analyze, and compare facts, situations, or quotes related to the topic of your paragraph.
The secondary sentences are those where you include and analyze any evidence that you can provide in the paragraph, or also provide details about an event, person or situation
Step 3. End the paragraph with a final sentence
After you have presented the main idea in a topic sentence and have presented facts and evidence in the secondary sentences, conclude the paragraph with a closing sentence. With this sentence you conclude the main ideas and points before moving on to the next topic in your writing.
Method 3 of 4: Avoid Common Grammar Mistakes
Step 1. Beware of Decheism
The inappropriate use of the preposition "de" before "que" is usually one of the most common grammatical errors in our language. By being so careful not to fall into it, it has resulted in another error: queísmo (or antidequeísmo).
- Let's take the phrase "I'm sure you'll understand" as an example. In this sentence the preposition of should not be eliminated. This is one of the cases where the use of the "of what" is correct.
- But there is a very simple formula to know when you should or should not use the preposition "of" before "that". You only have to oppose the phrase you want to say or write in the form of a question. If the question calls for the "of," then the sentence must include it.
- If we apply the formula in the same example "I am sure you will understand", these would be the questions: 1.) What am I sure? 2.) What am I sure of. Naturally, the correct option is the second.
Step 2. Follow the rules for capitalization
Proper names and those derived from them must always be capitalized. You should always capitalize names, countries, cities, states, nationalities, languages, educational institutions, academic degrees, government departments, political parties, and trademarks or trade names.
You should also capitalize the first word of a sentence and the first word of a quote
Step 3. Be careful with sentence fragments
A very common grammatical mistake is the use of incomplete sentences, also known as sentence fragments. Each sentence that is spelled out must be complete as well as being able to understand itself as a sentence.
Step 4. Use the same tense constantly
Avoid changing the tenses in the same sentence or paragraph. In general, you should use the same verb tense throughout the writing.
- For example, don't say "It's raining and the clouds were dark." Instead, try “It's raining and the clouds are dark” or “It was raining and the clouds were dark.
- There are exceptions! For example, if you are writing a text in the present tense, it is considered correct to switch to the past tense to tell a memory or anecdote.
Method 4 of 4: Write Concise
Step 1. Avoid verbiage
Writing concise means that you must convey the message using as few words as possible. Eliminate extra or unnecessary words that only add confusion to your message. For example, don't write "I am sending you an email regarding the subject of your last report." Instead, write "I am sending you an email regarding your latest report."
Try replacing "regardless of what" with a simple "although". If you find yourself in an urge to use "because", try replacing it with a "because"
Step 2. Don't use redundant words
You should avoid combining two words with similar meaning. Doing so just messes up the sentence and adds nothing to your message. As an example you have: sudden crises, each individual, future plans, and past history. Never write "The real facts of the case are clear." Instead try "The facts of the case are clear."
Step 3. Eliminate nonsense words
Don't use words that don't add meaning or have no relevance to the sentence. Words like obviously, basically, very, really, and clearly should be removed if you want to have effective written communication. For example, you shouldn't write “Actually, Amanda looked at the elephant when it was basically urinating. Instead, you could write "Amanda looked at the elephant while it was urinating."
Words like "Actually" can be used to indicate contradiction
Step 4. Substitute a phrase for a word
You can often substitute an entire phrase by replacing it with a single word. For example, phrases such as "in the event that" or "in circumstances in which" can be replaced by a simple conditional "if".