Before we start, it is imperative to understand the definition of communication.
communication: a two-way process of reaching mutual understanding in which the participants exchange (encode-decode) information and create and share meaning across space and time.
Writing is a method of communication that requires active thought processes from both the writer and the reader. A failure occurs when the reader can’t decode or understand the writer’s message; therefore, the writer must make the effort to properly encode the message. By following a systematic process for encoding the message, anyone can write successful communications.
Define Your Purpose
Every good story or effective message starts with a purpose (which is usually your thought, desire, idea or feeling that you want to share with others). Having a sense of purpose with which and for what one is planning to write should never be neglected. The purpose of a well written piece should be obvious to the reader. Sometimes, the theme and the purpose are one and the same, but the gist of your message should be the always be your purpose.
Once the sense of purpose for a piece has been established, the next step is to organize the story, information or message into a flow by creating an outline. Whether it is mental or written, an outline should be developed to help to organize and establish the logical flow of the information. As a rule of thumb, to be considered a complete communication (with very few exceptions) every story or message must include who, what, where, when, why, how and sometimes, how much.
Identify Your Audience
Once the information has been compiled and verified (dates, locations, names, etc.) the next step is to make an assessment of the intended audience so that vocabulary and tone can be planned. Using vocabulary that is either too advanced or too simplistic for the intended audience is off-putting and results in a negative reader experience. Tone ranges from motivational and uplifting to repressive and de-motivating. The decision about tone may have been set once you established a purpose. Are you trying to inspire, motivate to action, or castigate? The choice of tone is very important.
Find Your Voice
Once the choice for the tone of the piece is set, the next consideration to make is voice or perspective. Are you writing in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person, as a collective, as “We,” as a dictator? Exactly how are you transmitting the persona to the reader? In writing pieces for a corporate, organization or group communication, 1st person (I, Me, We) is seldom used. References, such as the name of the group or The Foundation, The Organization or their initials, are often used in such pieces. When writing for yourself on your own behalf, be wary of using I, Me or My too frequently, at least that is the opinion of this author. Once all the components have been thought through and organized the actual piece can be written.
Review, Revise, Repeat
Once the first draft is written, it must be reviewed and revised until it is ready for a final proof reading. Think about this as the Quality Control process in writing your piece. The review should answer these questions:
- Are all of the facts correct?
- Are all of the points covered?
- Does it have a logical flow?
- Are there better word choices?
- Are there awkward sentences?
- Is message clear?
- What can be cut out?
When reviewing the piece think about how it is constructed. Should it or could it be re-arranged or re-written to make more sense, be easier to understand, be more informative or more impactful? Think about your piece as if it were a recipe, assembly instructions or directions to your house, any single ingredient, step or turn not included would result in a failure. If the piece is missing anything, revise it until it is complete. If it doesn’t flow, fix it. If it’s wrong, correct it. It is good practice and it is advisable to use a dictionary, a thesaurus and an on-line grammar check. Even though you may have written a substantially solid piece, one misspelled word, one grammatical error, one awkward phrase or one incorrect fact will cause the reader to reject the entire piece. Remember – Always cite your sources!
Trim the Fat
Now, read it again to see what you can get rid of. It is a good practice and advisable to cut out unnecessary or impertinent content because it can be a strain on your reader and detract from your message. Writing a long, flowery, iambic pentameter passage like this one, just because you can and because you think it shows your readers how well you can use the language and because you think it shows them how smart you are, how well you know your subject matter and how big your vocabulary is the definition of “excessively verbose” and tends to put readers to sleep like that teacher you had that everyone said must have liked to hear the sound of his voice because he just keep on talking and talking, bleating on and on and on and on and is an example of Fat that should be Trimmed.
Proof Read, Proof Read, Proof Read
At this point, if you think you are finished, the next step is proofreading. Proofreading includes looking for errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation. It is a best practice to have multiple sets of eyes proof read a piece before it is published on the world wide web, just to save yourself from the embarrassment of not correcting an error before it is too late to make a correction. The web doesn’t exactly have an “un-publish” button. It is best to have a proofreader that is both proficient with your language and that is familiar with the subject matter to serve as a secondary fact-checker as well. Fix whatever you catch in the proofreading, then jump back to the Review, Revise and Repeat this step until you are certain it’s done, because nothing comes after Publish except your next piece.
Ted Metz is a working Activist in Georgia and is involved as a founder or Board Member of many activist organizations including Right2KnowRight2Grow, March Against Monsanto Atlanta, Operation Educate, P.A.N.D.A. and others working to restore the Rule of Law. He is involved in party politics fighting for Liberty and working with candidates for public office, including his run for State Insurance Commissioner. Ted is a skilled web developer, graphics designer, writer, videographer, veteran and patriot.
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