February 17, 2021
I’ve enrolled in a course to sharpen my writing skills.
By Maureen McCabe
My new year’s resolution was to learn how to write faster and work towards writing pithily. If you know me, that’s a tall challenge! After scouring the internet, I found the ideal course, Writing Effectively For Business #SCS_3213A_005 at U of T (the University of Toronto, AKA Harvard of the north).
Homework #3: Watch a Writing Process Video and Post a Comment on It.
The operative word is “a”, meaning one or two comments, not an essay! I was thrilled that my prof wrote, What a lovely gift to your classmates, Maureen! Thanks so much for taking the time to provide these excellent notes. –MH
Today it dawned on me, I could use my homework for this month’s blog.
I enjoyed watching the 12-minute Writing Process Animation Video, Jonathon provided many practical strategies to incorporate into your writing process. I made copious notes, and as any good team player would do, I shared them freely with my classmates. The following are tips and juicy morsels:
Research shows that the quality of writing assignments is determined more by the planning than the number of revisions completed. Wow! I was surprised to learn about the value of planning, and commit to trying the formal writing process for the next assignment. If Toronto moves to the COVID-19 grey zone level, it will lower my commitment to the writing process because I want to enjoy life and leave my suite.
Tip 1. Before you start writing, choose a quiet place to work without interruption. Avoid distractions such as texting or email. Set your cell phone to mute or power it off. Ditto, for other technology including your landline, should you be blessed to have one!
Tip 2. Throughout the writing process, it’s helpful to talk out loud in a positive tone. Remember, you are alone. Who else will answer your questions and comments? To quote my buddy, Ernest, Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.
Tip 3. Set goals that are short-term, concrete, and challenging for every step. Take a pencil and write each goal down or type it into some technology device that you own. Review your goals regularly, and revise as necessary. To monitor your progress, every time you work on the project, record the number of minutes. It’s helpful to meet your deadline and is a good benchmark for future blog writing.
The Effective Writing Process follows four steps:
1. PLAN: Choose a topic that interests you and meets the course requirements. Create an outline with a minimum of three headings.
2. RESEARCH: Use reliable primary or secondary sources. Take detailed notes.
3. WRITE: Develop an outline and write at least one paragraph for each heading. Then, write an engaging introduction and conclusion.
4. REVISE: After a good night’s sleep, review the article. Perhaps you need to reorder sections, chuck others, and make significant revisions. Leverage practical techniques such as TREE or DARE.
Develop a Topic Sentence
Add Supporting Ideas
Reject Opposing Arguments
End with a Conclusion
Write a title; I prefer a scintillating one that draws readers like a magnet and, when well-written, is shared extensively. Include supporting materials if they provide value, i.e. images, tables, diagrams, and videos.
Feedback: Ask two people, such as friends and work colleagues, to provide critical feedback.
(I digress, be candid and implore them to write the “brutal truth,” regardless if they think it is too harsh and you might be devastated. You are laser-focused on your writing goal; they can help you achieve it. Share your dream of walking across the Convocation Hall stage to receive the Best Article medal in the Business Communications program, University of Toronto. Your mom will be beaming, cameras will be flashing, and you will remember the thrill of this moment forever.)
Integrate the feedback to make the final revision.
Proofreading your writing is like waterproofing your house
Ugh. That’s what you will feel when you find a typo in your article submitted to Professor, Ms Hoffman, or publisher. Your readers will think a lot worse. That’s why you need a proofreader.
Using spell and grammar checking tools, and proofreading the final draft on your own, is not ideal. Ask a friend. You are responsible for the final product. Learn how to proofread like a professional. Thousands of Maureen’s clients, students, and friends have followed these top three best-practices:
1. Stand up and read out loud the article, articulate each syllable, and state every punctuation mark.
Imagine you are addressing the nation on live television.
2. Stand up and sing out loud, enunciate each word.
Imagine that your article is the lyrics that a three-time GRAMMY award composer will use. Some people find it easier to think they are singing in the shower. Remember, no one is listening to your a cappella because you are working alone, right?
3. Use a credit card to read each word from left to right.
Yep, that’s right you are reading backwards.
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