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Leading Your Writers
By Jane Watson   Printer Friendly Version

Encouraging others to improve their writing is not an easy task. If you continually revise their work, chances are they will give up trying to improve.

"Why bother," they'll say. "The boss will only rewrite it."

On the other hand, if you overlook vague or poorly-written correspondence, it reflects badly on your department and organization.

Here are some guidelines to help you coach your staff in preparing well-written documents:

1. Ensure your own writing style reflects today's business writing style: clear, concise and courteous.

2. Understand the differences between editing, rewriting and revising. Editing means improving the clarity, accuracy and effectiveness of the material. The changes are minor; you could make the alterations without consulting the author.

3. When you revise, you indicate the changes required in the sentence structure, tone, organization and the inclusion or elimination of details. Then, you pass it back to the author for a re-write-a good learning process but time-consuming.

Rewriting is when you actually make the changes yourself instead of letting the author make them. Definitely faster, but the writer will not learn from the experience.

Don't edit someone else's work when you are in a bad mood. Your judgment will be off, and you'll end up changing material that at another time would be acceptable.

4. Choose a comprehensive style and grammar book-written in the 90s. Make it available to everyone.

5. Don't use a red pen when making corrections. It makes people feel they are back in school.

6. Change words only if they are incorrect or fuzzy. Don't change them because they aren't your favorites.

7. Never rewrite an entire paragraph. Mark it for the author to revise.

8. Don't use cryptic words in the margin, such as confusing or awkward. Comment on why the passage isn't working.

9. If a problem appears repeatedly, number your comments and use the number rather than rewriting your concerns.

10. Point out poorly-written materials received from other companies.

11. Circulate good reports so staff know the expected standard.

12. Praise your staff-preferably in public-whenever they prepare a well-written document.

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