ABC’s of Effective Writing (Formal and Informal)
Writing as an essential mode of communication began when several scholars from different parts of the world came together for the first time to share their knowledge and wisdom with the world. Regardless of the geographical, cultural, and social boundaries, writing has been adopted by not only prominent scholars but also by the masses as one of the main effective modes of communication. Verbal communication has certainly become the most commonly practiced mode of communication. However, let’s be a little skeptical in our approach here and question the very basic premise of different human aspects of communication. What is so special about writing that it is still thriving and most sought after, even though the mode of verbal communication is easiest to practice? What makes writing as such an inseparable and unavoidable aspect that human to human communication cannot stand still without its presence, especially if we focus on a unified globalized society in the 21st century?
Effective Speaking Vs Effective Writing
Most people would agree that speaking effectively does not guarantee that a person can write effectively. On a corporate level, being able to speak effectively is almost half the job done but to seal the deal one must be an effective writer. To further solidify the fundamental premise, here are a few distinctions that show why effective writing has become an essential tool to strengthen the level of communication, especially in the corporate world.
Evidentiality: Writing effectively offers evidence-based communication that cannot be achieved from effective speaking regardless of a strong verbal agreement.
Clarity: Be it a technical document or a formal contract, effective writing can offer clear and concise information to the client or any internal authority.
Accessibility: By having an effectively written proposal, request, or a technical document, the writer offers a piece of easily accessible information that can be retrieved anywhere anytime.
Trustability: Effectively written documents, when shared with an outside authority or within an organizational level, strengthen the commitment made in the document.
These are a few basic aspects that precisely indicate the level of dominance the effective writing skill possesses in the professional world.
Types of Effective Writing
Let us dig in a bit deeper into effective writing along with the branches that are widely practiced in our communication on a daily basis for both personal and professional use. Before we move any further, here is an essential outline of the ABCs of effective writing:
(A) AUDIENCE - Deciding the target audience and the purpose of writing.
(B) BLUEPRINT - Materials and their arrangements are decided.
(C) CREATION - Writing just enough for the target audience to fulfill the purpose.
(D) FIXING DISPUTES - Reviewing to address possible misunderstandings and fix potential disputes.
(E) EDITING - Correcting grammar, spelling, and the mechanics of the content.
(F) FIELD TEST - Testing the constructed documents with colleagues or on-field testers.
While keeping in mind the ABCs of effective writing, let’s now focus our attention on two major aspects of effective writing that can mainly be categorized as formal writing and informal writing.
While inclined more towards the formal style of writing, I have already shared a structural flowchart, covering several areas of the formal writing that will help you improve your pattern-setting while framing a formal document. When it comes to my journey with In Time Tec so far, I have come across a few areas of improvements that we can practice while writing a technical document, email, or a proposal.
Misusing Punctuation: The fact is that even experts sometimes miss out on correct usage of punctuation. We need to keep in mind at least a few common areas where we need to be careful while using the punctuation.
Comma – The correct usage of a comma is made when a writer wants to take a brief pause in a sentence and does not necessarily has to be in the middle
Apostrophe – For instance, Birds’ and Bird’s. We use Birds’ when we are forming contractions to address something common in more than one element, in this case, more than one bird. Bird’s means addressing something that is limited to just one bird.
Parenthesis: Parenthesis () are most commonly used to address additional information about the topic or word in the discussion.
Inconsistent Flow: Flow is one area that significantly matters in formal writing. Any idea, message, or sharing that is coherent and conveys a train of thoughts, tends to create rapport with the reader that can be experienced by the writer with the kind of response that we get in return.
Confusing Antecedent: Antecedents are a set of phrase, clause, or a word that we use to refer to someone/something. These are most frequently used as pronouns such as they, we, who, or them that we use while writing a technical document, email, or a business proposal. To fix the confusion between various antecedents used in a document, an extra pair of eyes would help. Having someone else review your document may help clear the confusion.
Over Abstraction: Using unclear or non-specific information in a formal email or a proposal can sometimes be better to address an issue or subject in a well-informed manner. However, using abstract information too frequently may lead to ineffective addressing of a message. Keep in mind that abstract information should be completely avoided in technical documents.
As far as professional aspects are concerned, informal writing is an unconventional but effective method that we practice by relaxing the language. It usually follows the style of spoken language but it should not be too artificial and difficult to understand. Effective informal writing has a conversational style that makes the reader comfortable. Complex ideas are made simpler in effective informal writing. There is less rigidity in the structure of language and hence it helps the reader feel as if they are personally connected to the idea being talked about. This usually allows the reader to consider new ideas or re-frame their previous ideas more creatively. Unlike formal writing, a sentence in informal writing is short and conveys the message in very simple language and fewer words. It does not use long sentences and detailed expressions. Depending on the audience, it can vary in the level of informality while sticking to the message or content.
If I talk about my personal experience with informal documents that I have internally received in our company, I’d like to highlight a few common areas that can be improved.
Using Jargon: To create a rapport with the reader, you must always make sure that you speak a common language. In other words, you should not talk about something that your target audience is not familiar with, especially if you’re not familiar with your target audience.
Messy Sentence Framing: Once you are done writing your email or a document, get it reviewed by someone familiar with the context you talked about in your email/document.
Losing Train of Thoughts: To be an effective writer creating an informal piece of article, you need to make yourself familiar with what you are going to talk about in your message/content. Try creating a basic framework using bullets that you’ll further elaborate to create a proper sentence framing.
In informal writing, it is important to make sure that the words are simple. Explanation with too many words should be avoided. Vocabulary and sophisticated words are often made to take a backseat while the message and depth of the content are what matters. Writers can tend to confuse readers if they deviate too much from the rules of language. While informal writing gives us the freedom to loosen structure and the language a bit, it can also misguide the reader when the writer becomes too casual. It is necessary to make sure the reader is clearly able to understand the context by keeping the writing style interesting and meaningful at the same time.
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