Want to improve your writing skills and keep on improving? Avoid these 8 mistakes by using my strategies for giving readers what they need and expect. Remember, technical writing is not about self expression. It’s all about clarity for the reader. As a famous writer once said …
“Easy reading is damn hard writing. ” ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne
Why bother writing when technology does much of the work for us? Templates plan for us, spell-check edits for us, and there’s enough information online to produce a ocean of plagiarized work. It’s no surprise that technical and business writing skills are becoming lost arts. Yet, successful communication with colleagues, teams, and clients relies heavily on written memos, emails, reports, proposals, and evaluations. Professional development , especially in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) should have a strong focus on technical writing skills, but rarely does.
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“Deborah has a unique style as an Editor. She is thorough, helpful and easy going. You get to feel her rich experience in the very first encounter with her. Her reviews are top-notch and has consulted for many international organizations. She has demonstrated keen interest in the development of new and young writers over the years and is always available when called upon. I couldn’t find anyone better to work with.”
Am I good at my craft? Well, only my readers can answer that question. But I’m here today to share a bit about my history as a writer utilizing the Q & A format. Here goes:
Q: Terry, when did you decide to become a writer?
A: Although I love sports, it didn’t take me long to realize that a NBA career was not in my future. And science and math were not my strong points. Singing? Dancing? Since I’m the worst singer and dancer in the history of the world I ruled out those two options. So I figured that since putting pen to paper was something I enjoyed, plus I had great English teachers, I decided to major in English in college.
We’re about to land in Tashkent and I stuff bags of peanuts, napkins, and cupholders labeled “Air Uzbekistan” into my purse. I’m on a mission for the Jewish Federation in Chattanooga where I’m the Executive Director. No other Federation mission has ever gone to Uzbekistan on its way to Jerusalem and I want as many momentos as my bag will hold.
I relished this adventure of a lifetime. I usually worked 24/7 running the nonprofit and spending my days in the office. My restlessness as a bureaucrat was offset by having a salary, health insurance, and vacation. I’d published two books, but my writing now was solely for the Federation’s newsletter. No more Starving Writer for me!
I sat in my Chicago office wrapping up my latest project, the National Workshop on Christian-Jewish Relations, with an evaluation report. It was not so much “writing” as a how-to guide for the next poor slob who spent three years as coordinator. The phone rang and I interrupted my hair-pulling session for a friend who’d helped promote the Workshop. Mike was an editor with Liturgy Training Publications, the publishing arm of Chicago’s Catholic Archdiocese. “Please write a chapter for a book we’re doing on religious rites of passage for teens.” Continue reading How I Became an Award-winning Writer: PART 3 – by Deborah Levine→
My pride, and a touch of arrogance, in having aced Advanced Placement AP English lasted about five minutes on campus. Harvard frowned on freshmen who hadn’t achieved at least 4 out 5 on the AP English exam, and I’d received only 3. Humility sank in as I sat in an ancient lecture hall with hundreds of freshman and took a required writing exam. I flunked.
I’m often asked how I became an award-winning writer and I finally decided to share that story. My passion for writing began as a passion for reading. Growing up in Bermuda in the 1950s there was no television and little radio. My ivy-league educated parents read to me and my brother every night. Journeys through Bookland was my favorite collection of folk tales from around the world and mythology from Thor to Zeus. I imagined mermaids in the ocean that surrounded us, goblins underneath the mini-drawbridge, faeries in the lightning-bug swarms, and trolls under my bed. We learned the alphabet early in colonial British schools, and I learned my letters faster than most. (Please forgive me Jeffrey for drawing letters in charcoal all over your parents’ house and thanks for not telling the police I was hiding under the bed with the trolls.)
There are two essential themes in technical writing for reports. The first is having a step-by-step timeline that maps out the process. The second is choosing a topic that interests you enough to do the research and writing required. The ADR 10-Step plan combines both elements using a famous writer’s philosophy …
Few writing errors are as annoying to readers as abbreviations, acronyms, and initials that are either not defined or send them hunting for an explanation. This common mistake is compounded when using your report as the basis for an oral presentation. What are obvious short cuts to you may make your readers and/or audience resentful rather than admiring.