Exercising the Writing Process to Eliminate Error

One of the best ways to avoid common writing pitfalls is to follow an important writing process. People often think to use the writing process in formal writing or while in school, but it’s just as important to utilize this process in our emails, memos, reports, grants, reviews, articles and everything else we write in the workplace.

All writing is a process and there are crucial steps in this process:

1. Plan the message you want to convey. Think about what you want your reader to understand from your writing. Sometimes this phase is as short as thinking through your email response before you type it, but other times this phase can include brainstorming, outlining or writing out a plan for your thoughts.

2. Draft – get the words down. Imagine that everything you write is a first draft and therefore unfinished!

3. Revise. Make clear what you are trying to say by changing words, clarifying, simplifying or reiterating. The main way to avoid common grammar pitfalls is through revising and proofreading before we hit send, print, publish or submit.

4. Proofread. There are proven proofreading strategies. First, read your writing aloud. We often hear the mistakes we write because they “just don’t sound right.” Second, start at the end. Read your writing one sentence at a time, starting with your last sentence. This works well to help clarify your ideas and your grammar sentence by sentence. The third strategy is to ask a friend or co-worker to read your draft. An additional set of eyes will often catch what we overlooked. Finally, utilize spell check, grammar check and other “look-up” tools, like www.dictionary.com. If the program you’re writing in doesn’t have spell check or grammar check, copy your text into Microsoft Word and check it there. For more, click here for our May 5 Tips and Tricks Tuesday post.

According to Strunk and White’s acclaimed book on writing, The Elements of Style, we all benefit from approaching everything we write through this writing process because “few writers are so expert that they can produce what they are after on the first try.” Remember, everything you write is a rough draft until after you have worked it through the entire writing process.

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