Why you should write more (and the single best tip for doing so)

Writing at work can expand your influence, shape your reputation, and literally make your career. Yet few people do it often enough or well enough.

Here’s how you can distinguish yourself.

Why write?
This quote succinctly describes why writing is important for work:

“As soon as you move one step up from the bottom, your effectiveness depends on your ability to reach others through the written or spoken word. And the further away your job is from manual work, the larger the organization of which you are an employee, the more important it will be that you know how to convey your thoughts in writing or speaking. In the very large organization, whether it is the government, the large business corporation, or the Army, this ability to express oneself is perhaps the most important of all the skills a man or woman can possess.”

This isn’t from a modern communications expert or blogger. It’s from Peter Drucker. And it’s from 1952.

Drucker saw that organizational effectiveness increasingly depends on finding, sharing, and building on the best ideas. And for that to happen, those ideas have to be discoverable – that is, written down. Now, more than in Drucker’s day, it’s easier to publish your work and make an audience aware of it.

And while writing helps your firm, it also helps you. By publishing your ideas and opinions, you shape your reputation – who you are, what you do, and how well you do it. And that greater visibility helps unlock opportunities that would never be open to you otherwise.

2 resources to help you

Of all the books on writing non-fiction, two in particular stand out for their usefulness and accessibility.

The best book on writing non-fiction

On Writing Well”, by William Zinsser, is an extremely valuable guide. It helps you write with “clarity and strength” but also with “humanity and warmth.”

Filled with anecdotes and examples, Zinsser will convince you to abandon the dry, technical, professional style you may have been taught. Instead, he’ll help you develop a more personal style that people will enjoy more. And he’ll show you ways to make even the most mundane topics come alive for your audience.

The best book on writing for the webLetting Go of the Words”, by Ginny Redish addresses the challenges of “writing web content that works.”

Increasingly, most writing at work is read on-line. In numerous experiments that scanned people’s eyes while they read, it’s clear that people read quite differently on-line than in print. On-line, they typically scan the screen in quick, predictable ways, looking for interesting content. That makes titles and headings even more important. And long, dense prose, for example, simply isn’t effective.

These are two books that everyone at work should read.

The best writing tip 

Beyond the guidance you’ll find in books, the key to writing is actually doing more of it. And the best method I’ve found to start writing more is to get a friend to help you. Someone to read and critique your first few posts. To ensure you carve out writing time on your calendar. To drag you and your laptop to the cafe, if necessary, and sit next to you while you write.

Writing regularly and often is perhaps the most consistent advice you’ll get. People as different as Seth GodinTom Peters, and Fred Wilson all stress the importance of writing regularly. (Wilson, NYC’s most notable venture capitalist, started blogging at age 42 and has been writing daily ever since – over 5000 posts. He’s gradually built an audience of over 100,000 people and says “the investment I’ve made in my communication skills over the past eight years is paying huge dividends for me now.”)

A friend can help you work through the initial difficulties

But so many people simply can’t get started. Or they stop when they’re unhappy with the results

So find a friend to help you get through the early difficulties that everyone faces when they start to write. And start learning to write often as you also aspire to write well. 

“It is a timeless and powerful skill,” says Tom Peters.  

For both you and for your firm, it’s a skill worth developing.

About John Stepper

Helping organizations create a more collaborative culture – and helping individuals access a better career and life – by spreading the practice of Working Out Loud.
This entry was posted in Self awareness and improvement, Working out loud and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Why you should write more (and the single best tip for doing so)

  1. dante668 says:

    I totally agee. The best way to get better at writing is to write, but many people are too afraid of writing badly to even start. The trick is to let go of that fear and just write.

  2. Nice post, John. I agree. I read Seth’s post you refer to some time ago and shared it with some friends to get them to blog/write. In my experience many people are very hesitant to do so. I can relate to that. When I decided to start blogging I was scared what others would think of my blogging. Can you relate to that? And how do you encourage others to write publicly?

  3. Great advice. I’ll refer to it when writes block sets in. -)

  4. susanweiner says:

    Zinsser’s book is a classic. I like anything that he writes.

    I am also a big fan of writing. But, of course, I’m a writer,so what else could I say?

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  9. Niki Cassidy says:

    Thanks for the book recommendations John they look great, have just ordered them from Amazon. Thank you Niki

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  11. Claudio Giulietti says:

    I totally agree with the comment on “Why you should write more (and the single best tip for doing so)”.
    John your are totally hitting the point.
    Who could figure out in the 80’s that an old tool like the written word could became again current at the maximum.
    In the 80s and early 90s people were oriented only to images and charts to explain things (whic is good as well) but writings was outdated.
    If we look at communication nowadays we are more in writing than we think.
    SMS, MMS, Mail, IM, Tweets…..and so on …
    From a sociological poitn of view this is a tremendus change also because we are changing a lot the way we convey messages (contractions, shorting them, removing verbs or adjectives…)
    A big change that can meke everyone owner of his own visibility and networking.
    This is also introducing a sense of self awareness of the own capacity as you can speak directly hundreds to milions of people without the real necessity to show up. Creating a kind of shield.

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