Most formal communication begins with an outline, so the first order of business is putting ideas down on paper.
One of the biggest challenges with all writing is simply beginning.
"Most of us procrastinate," says Norm Friedman, a free-lance writer and communications expert. "We are perfectionists, and rather than have it be imperfect, we just don't start."
And getting started is just the beginning. If you're not a frequent writer, it can take longer than you might expect, especially if the subject is one that is near and dear to you.
"For a lot of us, we know too much about the subject, and it is very hard to write concisely," says Friedman.
The most important thing to remember is to write for your reader.
"It's much like a movie or the theatre," says Friedman. "When you really love a performance, it is because that person really became the character. It the same with writing; you need to get into the mind of the person you are writing for."
Know what you're going to write about before starting, and keep the main point any article or speech to one piece of advice.
"If you don't organize well, you probably won't be brief," says Friedman. "Your writing should be closer to the way you talk. In most of our writing, the tone is too impersonal."
Once the first draft is finished, it's time to edit. Cut down long sentences and paragraphs, then cut often-repeated words and jargon.
And forgot all those things you learned in grammar class and throw away that thesaurus, Friedman says.
"Use 'I, we and you," says Friedman. "And forget adjectives, especially 'very' and use colorful verbs."
And be prepared to cut out that perfectly crafted sentence that just doesn't fit the rest of the piece. As William Faulkner put it, "Some times you have to kill off some of your lovelies." How to reach: Norm Friedman Communications: (216) 752-3160 or firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters."
-- Frank Lloyd Wright (1868-1959)
Every year since 1976, Lake Superior State University has published its List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use and General Uselessness.
Here are few of the banished words the last two years:
* Untimely death -- An attempt to make death sound more tragic
* Totally unique and very unique -- It can't be more unique than unique.
* In the wake of -- Whatever happened to the word after
* Foreseeable future -- How long is foreseeable?
* Make no mistake about it -- Who's mistaken, anyway?
* Possible choices -- No need to include impossible choices. Source: Lake Superior State University