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10 Ways to Improve Your Professional Writing

Chances are that you spend much of your day writing. Whether it’s crafting a project update report or sending an email, your written communications are often a big part of your professional life.

What you may not realize, however, is how that writing can make or break your career. Poorly written reports, sloppy emails and even terse text messages can undermine your professional image, perhaps even costing you a promotion or an important customer.

In addition, writing beyond the daily email or report is becoming more important for professionals. Many are asked to write for industry publications or blogs as a way to demonstrate their expertise, but poor writing can quickly undermine that effort.

It’s also important to realize that your writing lasts forever. Even emails can be unearthed from years ago, so make sure what you’re writing can stand the test of time and isn’t something you – or your boss – will be embarrassed to discover down the line.

So, how do you become a better writer so that your career will benefit?

  1. Don’t betray the reader’s trust. Verify what you write and not just through Wikipedia. If you quote a fact, consult more than one source to make sure you give an accurate date or spelling.
  2. Give it time to breathe. Just like a fine wine, fine writing often benefits sitting for a bit. When you’ve written, edited and rewritten your copy, walk away from it, even if you can only give it 10 minutes while you go refresh your coffee. Nine times out of 10 you’ll spot some awkward phrasing or wordiness in your writing when you look at it with a fresh eye.
  3. Be concise. First, let me say that there is such a thing as being too concise these days. Personally, I don’t like getting thank-you -emails that say “thx” along with an automated signature. At the same time, I don’t want to wade through five paragraphs to find out what the heck it is you want from me. Your first sentence should answer the “so what?” question for me. That intrigues me to read more.
  4. Be consistent. I use the Associated Press Stylebook, which makes sure that I follow a consistent style. For example, don’t write out “percent” some of the time and then use “%” other times. If you’re going to refer to someone by his or her last name in your writing, don’t switch halfway through to the person’s first name or you’re going to confuse your reader. Consistency lets the reader focus on your message.
  5. Make sure it’s relevant. Just because you have loads of great information doesn’t mean you need to include it all. Your readers will appreciate you summarizing key information.
  6. Read it out loud. You may have to do this in the privacy of your own home so your coworkers don’t think you’ve started talking to yourself, but it can help you become a better writer. If you can’t read a sentence without running out of breath, it’s too long and needs editing. (An average sentence should be about 15 to 28 words.) Listen for the overuse of jargon and trite phrases such as “at the end of the day” or “outside the box.”
  7. Give examples. Just as verbal storytelling is shown to really help messages stick, giving examples can provide readers with a visual image that makes your words memorable. Just be careful you don’t decide to provide an example that is 800 words long. Again, readers appreciate concise writing, and that goes for any descriptive examples.
  8. Make it visually appealing. Most readers are willing to give an email or letter about 4.5 seconds of their time, so using bullet points, subheadings or graphics can be helpful in getting them to stick around longer.
  9. Provide transitions. You want your reader to move through your writing easily. Even if you add “at the same time,” or “further,” it moves the reader more easily into a new paragraph or idea.
  10. Watch the fat thumbs. Mistakes made while texting are common, but consider the person receiving your missive may open it at the office while checking email. A text riddled with typos and abbreviations can be jarring in such a setting.

In a busy day, it can be difficult to find the time – and lack of distractions – to work on your writing. But since it can leave the most lasting “professional impression,” it’s worth investing the time and effort.

What are some poor writing habits that you believe undermine a person’s credibility?

Professional Writing in English

Writing well and communicating effectively are critical skills for all those working in academic and business management. Whether you are writing an e-mail, a business plan, a policy document, an internal memo, or website content, you need to recognize and understand the nuances of writing these different types of documents.

Course content

You will learn to craft well-written communication, to be persuasive, to make requests, to give feedback, and to write succinctly and clearly. You will work on your own material – which you provide as input at the start of the course. We work with your reader’s expectations in mind, and you will learn to adjust your writing style to their needs.

Our approach is no-nonsense and hands-on: you write and we, together with the class, review, edit and improve your writing: you can directly apply the results in your daily work.

Write and communicate professionally

Learn from the experts

Communicate more effectively

Your material – directly applicable

No nonsense and hands-on

If you want to follow a course on scientific writing, please visit Scientific Writing for Professionals.

Course level

The course consists of 6 classes and meets every other week. Each class is 2 hours. You should expect to spend 2 to 4 hours on homework each week.

Dates and times

This course is offered in February and September each year.

Course material

Course material will be supplied by the teacher on Blackboard. For some modules, additional handouts will be given in class.

Certification

If you are taking the course as part of Wageningen University & Research Language Policy, your skills will be assessed throughout the course. Assessment is based on the writing assignments you submit each session. If you sufficiently improve in the course, you will receive a Wageningen in’to Languages certificate. If you do not, you will be awarded a Certificate of Attendance, providing you have attended enough classes.

Regular fee: € 550

WUR Staff (10% discount): € 495

  • Excluding course material
  • We only accept payment by debit or credit card

Prior to registration: placement test

New course participants are obliged to take the free Oxford Online Placement Test (OOPT) to ensure that they are placed in the right course. Professional Writing in English requires an OOPT score of 80. Please note: your registration cannot be confirmed without a placement test result.

Arrange an OOPT appointment through our online calendar.

Please note that it is not possible to cancel your appointment online. If you cannot attend your appointment, please contact us:

How to write a perfect professional email in English in 5 steps

Wil – 22/11/2016

For most of us, email is the most common form of business communication so it’s important to get it right. Although emails usually aren’t as formal as letters, they still need to be professional to present a good image of you and your company.

How to write a formal email

Follow these five simple steps to make sure your English emails are perfectly professional.

  1. Begin with a greeting
  2. Thank the recipient
  3. State your purpose
  4. Add your closing remarks
  5. End with a closing

Begin with a greeting

Always open your email with a greeting, such as “Dear Lillian”. If your relationship with the reader is formal, use their family name (eg. “Dear Mrs. Price”). If the relationship is more casual, you can simply say, “Hi Kelly”. If you don’t know the name of the person you are writing to, use: “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam”.

Thank the recipient

If you are replying to a client’s inquiry, you should begin with a line of thanks. For example, if someone has a question about your company, you can say, “Thank you for contacting ABC Company”. If someone has replied to one of your emails, be sure to say, “Thank you for your prompt reply” or “Thanks for getting back to me”. Thanking the reader puts him or her at ease, and it will make you appear more polite.

State your purpose

If you are starting the email communication, it may be impossible to include a line of thanks. Instead, begin by stating your purpose. For example, “I am writing to enquire about …” or “I am writing in reference to …”.

Make your purpose clear early on in the email, and then move into the main text of your email. Remember, people want to read emails quickly, so keep your sentences short and clear. You’ll also need to pay careful attention to grammar, spelling and punctuation so that you present a professional image of yourself and your company.

Add your closing remarks

Before you end your email, it’s polite to thank your reader one more time and add some polite closing remarks. You might start with “Thank you for your patience and cooperation” or “Thank you for your consideration” and then follow up with, “If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to let me know” and “I look forward to hearing from you”.

End with a closing

The last step is to include an appropriate closing with your name. “Best regards”, “Sincerely”, and “Thank you” are all professional. Avoid closings such as “Best wishes” or “Cheers” unless you are good friends with the reader. Finally, before you hit the send button, review and spell check your email one more time to make sure it’s truly perfect!

Aren’t you an EF English Live student yet? See the general and business English course in action by requesting a one month for only one dollar* trial. Find more information about essential professional English tips here.

Writing professional emails in the workplace

Increasingly, universities and colleges are emphasizing the development of communication skills. In addition to discipline-specific knowledge, employers also expect post-secondary graduates to have strong written and oral communication skills.

When to send an email

Email is one of many available communication technologies in the workplace, but it is not always the most appropriate one. When considering the method of communication, consider your message, your audience’s likely reaction to the information, and the size of your audience. In general, email is good for positive or neutral news and sharing information. Sometimes other methods of communication (face-to-face, phone, instant messaging, video conferencing, etc.) may be more appropriate.

  • If you are terminating someone’s position, face-to-face is the best way to communicate that information
  • If your audience is located in different cities or countries, and you are delivering good news and are excited to see your collagues’ reactions, video conferencing may be a better choice than email

Types of email in the workplace

There are two primary types of email in the workplace:

Most emails in the workplace fall into this category. Request emails usually expect a reply. This kind of email could ask questions, specify tasks people need to complete, or ask colleagues to acknowledge or comment on policies, meetings, or projects. A sample request-and-reply email can be found near the end of this page.

  • Confirmation Emails

    This kind of email creates a permanent, written record of a conversation that has taken place. For example, if you and a colleague discussed collaborating on a project over lunch, you might send them an email with the details of that conversation. This gives you both a record of the conversation and allows for the conversation to continue, if needed.

  • Essential email components

    Helpful tip: Conventionally, email components should be left-justified (i.e., not indented). The exception is for bulleted or numbered lists, which should be offset in order to make it easier for the reader to see important information.

    An important design concept in workplace communication is graphic highlighting, which means that you should use white space and bulleted/numbered lists to make important or detailed information easier to access. Emails are meant to be concise, so you should avoid lengthy sentences and paragraphs.

    Subject line

    The subject line of your email should offer your reader the purpose of the email, but it should also be brief. If your subject line is vague, people may ignore your email, or it may be sent to the junk/spam folder.

    Choosing a greeting may appear to be an easy task, but you have to gauge the appropriate level of formality. Emailing a coworker with whom you are friends to ask a brief question is different from emailing your supervisor with a work-related request. Below are some greetings that straddle different levels of formality:

    More formal:

    • Dear [Name],
    • Hello [Name],
    • Good morning/afternoon [Name],

    Less formal:

    • Hi [Name],
    • Hey [Name],

    Depending on how your audience will react to the information in your email, you will need to decide whether to structure your email body using the direct or indirect method of communication. Either way, paragraphs in an email, when there is more than one, should be clear and concise. They are generally much shorter than paragraphs in an academic essay, for example.

    The Direct Method of Communication

    Except in the cases listed below, use the direct method of communication when constructing an email. This method is used when your reader is already informed about the subject and/or will already be supportive of the information provided. The content of your email will provide the following pieces of information, in this order:

    1. Main point/decision/request
    2. Background or context for the main point of the email (if required)
    3. Closing paragraph – summary, action items, polite closing

    The Indirect Method of Communication

    While you want to avoid delivering really bad news by email (face-to-face is the preferred method for sensitive subjects), if you are delivering information that your reader may not immediately support or that they need to be educated about, your email should be structured according to the indirect method of communication. This gives the reader time to consider rationale or background before encountering the main message:

    1. Background or context for the main point of the email (always included in the indirect method)
    2. Main point/decision/request
    3. Closing paragraph – summary, action items, polite closing

    General Tip: The level of formality in your tone will vary based on the recipient of your message. In general, emails in the workplace are less formal than academic writing but more formal than spoken conversation. While first-person references and contractions are usually acceptable in emails,

    jargon and slang should be avoided (as should humour, which may be misinterpreted).

    As with the greeting, you need to choose an appropriate sign-off for your audience:

    10 Ways to Improve Your Professional Writing

    Chances are that you spend much of your day writing. Whether it’s crafting a project update report or sending an email, your written communications are often a big part of your professional life.

    What you may not realize, however, is how that writing can make or break your career. Poorly written reports, sloppy emails and even terse text messages can undermine your professional image, perhaps even costing you a promotion or an important customer.

    In addition, writing beyond the daily email or report is becoming more important for professionals. Many are asked to write for industry publications or blogs as a way to demonstrate their expertise, but poor writing can quickly undermine that effort.

    It’s also important to realize that your writing lasts forever. Even emails can be unearthed from years ago, so make sure what you’re writing can stand the test of time and isn’t something you – or your boss – will be embarrassed to discover down the line.

    So, how do you become a better writer so that your career will benefit?

    1. Don’t betray the reader’s trust. Verify what you write and not just through Wikipedia. If you quote a fact, consult more than one source to make sure you give an accurate date or spelling.
    2. Give it time to breathe. Just like a fine wine, fine writing often benefits sitting for a bit. When you’ve written, edited and rewritten your copy, walk away from it, even if you can only give it 10 minutes while you go refresh your coffee. Nine times out of 10 you’ll spot some awkward phrasing or wordiness in your writing when you look at it with a fresh eye.
    3. Be concise. First, let me say that there is such a thing as being too concise these days. Personally, I don’t like getting thank-you -emails that say “thx” along with an automated signature. At the same time, I don’t want to wade through five paragraphs to find out what the heck it is you want from me. Your first sentence should answer the “so what?” question for me. That intrigues me to read more.
    4. Be consistent. I use the Associated Press Stylebook, which makes sure that I follow a consistent style. For example, don’t write out “percent” some of the time and then use “%” other times. If you’re going to refer to someone by his or her last name in your writing, don’t switch halfway through to the person’s first name or you’re going to confuse your reader. Consistency lets the reader focus on your message.
    5. Make sure it’s relevant. Just because you have loads of great information doesn’t mean you need to include it all. Your readers will appreciate you summarizing key information.
    6. Read it out loud. You may have to do this in the privacy of your own home so your coworkers don’t think you’ve started talking to yourself, but it can help you become a better writer. If you can’t read a sentence without running out of breath, it’s too long and needs editing. (An average sentence should be about 15 to 28 words.) Listen for the overuse of jargon and trite phrases such as “at the end of the day” or “outside the box.”
    7. Give examples. Just as verbal storytelling is shown to really help messages stick, giving examples can provide readers with a visual image that makes your words memorable. Just be careful you don’t decide to provide an example that is 800 words long. Again, readers appreciate concise writing, and that goes for any descriptive examples.
    8. Make it visually appealing. Most readers are willing to give an email or letter about 4.5 seconds of their time, so using bullet points, subheadings or graphics can be helpful in getting them to stick around longer.
    9. Provide transitions. You want your reader to move through your writing easily. Even if you add “at the same time,” or “further,” it moves the reader more easily into a new paragraph or idea.
    10. Watch the fat thumbs. Mistakes made while texting are common, but consider the person receiving your missive may open it at the office while checking email. A text riddled with typos and abbreviations can be jarring in such a setting.

    In a busy day, it can be difficult to find the time – and lack of distractions – to work on your writing. But since it can leave the most lasting “professional impression,” it’s worth investing the time and effort.

    What are some poor writing habits that you believe undermine a person’s credibility?

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    Professional Writing & Rhetoric

    Professional WRiting Degree

    Learn to be an effective professional writer in digital and print environments in the corporate, non-profit, or technical industries.

    Technology continues to permeate all aspects of the 21st century work environment; because of this, employers are demanding college graduates who excel at professional communication in digital environments.

    Employees will spend anywhere from 50-80% of their work day communicating i n both verbal and written formats – according to the Journal of Communications article “Measurement of Time Spent Communicating.”

    In fact, effective written and oral communication skills are consistently ranked among the top 8 desired skills employers ex pect of job applicants.

    To set yourself apart from other job candidates, develop key communication skills by pursuing a major or minor in McKendree’s Professional Writing and Rhetoric Program!

    Undeniably, there’s no way to overemphasize the value of your communication skills – especially when it comes to your career. Regardless of your professional plans or the degree you pursue while at McKendree, this program will prepare you for the ever-changing communication needs and expectations of the 21st Century workplace. More importantly, here in the Professional Writing and Rhetoric Program we believe that if you hope to get anywhere in life, you have got to be able to convey your ideas in a way that connects with and inspires people. That’s the McKendree difference!

    Why a B.A. Degree in Professional Writing and Rhetoric?

    In today’s technology-driven world, a bachelor’s degree in professional writing and rhetoric equips you with the skills you need to convey your ideas in a way that connects and inspires people. Students in this program gain firsthand experience learning how to harness their written and oral communication abilities to make a difference in their workplace and community.

    About the Professional Writing and Rhetoric Major

    Housed within the Division of Humanities, the B.A. in professional writing and rhetoric prepares students to be effective professional writers in digital and print environments in the corporate, non-profit, or technical industries. Coursework expands students’ research and problem solving skills, extends their creative and stylistic ability, and instills a sense of responsibility for the public and private good. No matter what your professional goals are, this highly adaptable degree program prepares you for the ever-changing communication needs and expectations you’ll encounter in the modern workplace.

    Why McKendree?

    McKendree University provides you with interactive learning opportunities through our small class sizes, experienced faculty, and unique internship experiences that move you beyond the classroom. We are committed to your success in the degree programs we offer, the internships and extracurricular activities that will set you apart, and the college experience you’ll get here. Just 25 minutes from downtown St. Louis, Missouri, McKendree University is located in historic Lebanon, Illinois, and affords students a host of enriching cultural, career, and entertainment opportunities.

    Program Highlights

    Classes are taught by full-time faculty from various fields, such as English, journalism, art, and communications, who hold years of diverse academic and professional experiences

    In-class service learning projects give you real world experience writing for local non-profits and seeing your work published

    Gain on-the-job experience before you graduate through McKendree’s strong internship program with access to countless corporations, non-profits, and start-up companies throughout the St. Louis area

    Internship Opportunities

    Internships during college have risen to the top of the list as one of the most heavily weighted attributes considered by employers. Professional writing students will have access to McKendree’s strong undergraduate internship program which capitalizes on our proximity to St. Louis – one of the top 20 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. and home to Fortune 500 companies, as well as numerous notable corporations, non-profit organizations, start-up companies, and other institutions.

    Employment Opportunities

    Graduates in professional writing and rhetoric find employment in corporate and non-profit settings as:

    • Writers
    • Editors
    • Media Managers
    • Technical Communicators
    • Grant Writers
    • Web Content Developers

    Interesting Courses

    New Media and Emerging Technologies in Professional Writing

    Civic Engagement through Professional Writing

    Professional Writing in Business

    The ability to communicate effectively in writing is a highly prized professional skill: it plays a key role in successful business planning, strategizing, and development; facilitates productive relations with internal and external stakeholders; and contributes significantly to the preservation of the organization’s professional image and reputation. This course provides an opportunity for current and future professionals to develop and practice the high-level written communication skills needed to enter and succeed in the professional workplace.

    During this course you will draft key business documents—including reports, plans and proposals—for senior managers and other colleagues, clients, business owners, business partners, and investors. You will also engage in several in-class activities that focus on realistic business communication situations and allow for discussion and debate with your peers. Grammar and mechanics will also be covered, along with techniques for honing your style and developing self-editing skills. These assignments and activities will enable you to create professional and influential business documents using communication strategies to inform, persuade, and motivate others.

    Dates: May 24th – July 26th, 2018

    Time: Thursday evenings, 6 – 9 p.m.

    Registration

    This course is part of the Professional Development Certificate in Project Management. For more information about this Certificate program, click here.

    This course is part of the Professional Development Certificate in Business Valuation. For more information about this Certificate program, click here.

    Current McGill students can register in Athena.

    If you wish to register for this course without being admitted to the program, please contact:

    Email: Pdregistrations.conted [at] mcgill.ca

    Address: 688 Sherbrooke St. West, 11th floor

    Objectives

    • write effective business documents tailored to specific purposes, audiences, and contexts
    • prepare a variety of business documents (including proposals, business plans, and reports) using appropriate headings, layout, and format
    • use resources to research and compile data for written documents
    • write routine and non-routine business messages that meet readers’ informational needs
    • learn how to build goodwill by using direct and indirect written communication strategies
    • communicate strategically in a variety of business situations: create and apply written communication strategies to inform, persuade, and motivate others
    • provide rational support for your claims or arguments, and judiciously evaluate the persuasive techniques used by others
    • collaborate productively with others to write and edit documents
    • use correct grammar, punctuation, and mechanics
    • analysing your audience
    • choosing channels and designing documents
    • the writing process: planning, composing, and revising
    • planning and composing business proposals, plans, and formal and informal reports
    • using graphics for impact and clarity
    • writing in teams
    • building goodwill to achieve your (and your organization’s) goal
    • controlling and clarifying your message: grammar, mechanics, self-editing

    Who Should Attend

    • Supervisors, managers, and executives in all sectors: business, industry, government, and not-for-profit

    For information regarding tuition payment please refer to: Student Accounts

    Third Party Billing

    If you have an agreement with your employer whereby the company should be billed directly for your course fees, please refer here for instructions on initiating a Third Party Sponsorship.

    Course Cancellation and Withdrawal Policy

    1. All cancellation requests must be made in writing to Pdregistrations.conted [at] mcgill.ca .

    2. Receive a refund, minus a $20 administration fee, if you withdraw from a course prior to the start of the second class.

    3. No refund will be issued if you withdraw from the course after the start of the second class, and a grade of “W” will appear on your official transcript.

    Contact Information

    Email: pdregistrations.conted [at] mcgill.ca

    For course content inquiries:

    PRDV002: Professional Writing

    Course Introduction

    Professional Writing is designed to provide adult learners with the basic skills they need to write effective documents in the workplace. In this course, you will learn how to analyze your audience so that you can write prose that is both clear and persuasive. You will practice writing common business documents, such as emails, memos, proposals, and presentations. You will also learn how to effectively edit these documents for maximum impact.

    This course is part of the Professional Development Program (PRDV), which is designed especially for adult learners who are ready to gain and apply skills demanded by today’s employers.

    Unit 1: Know Your Audience and Purpose

    When you are writing in a professional context, it is essential to cultivate an awareness and respect for your audience. Before you begin writing, you must determine for whom you are writing and why. Your goal should be to make your meaning as clear as possible, so your audience does not have to struggle to understand what you are saying. In this unit, you will learn how to analyze your audience, to identify your purpose for writing, and to prepare an outline that will help you get your point across.

    Completing this unit should take you approximately 1.75 hours.

    Unit 2: The Art of Persuasion

    Now that you have determined your audience, crafted your main point, and created an outline, it is time to draft your document. In this unit, you will learn how to craft a memo or email message that will reinforce your main point and persuade your audience. You will also learn how to eliminate common problems that may distract your reader from your main point.

    Completing this unit should take you approximately 1.25 hours.

    Unit 3: Polishing Your Writing

    In this age of instant communication, we have become accustomed to writing rapidly and reading documents filled with typographical errors, slang or abbreviations, and other common errors. While this may be the standard practice when text-messaging, it is not standard practice in the business world. Every piece of writing, no matter how brief, must be edited. In this unit, you will learn how to revise your writing so that it commands respect and attention.

    Completing this unit should take you approximately 30 minutes.

    Professional Writing

    The professional writing program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette emphasizes the communication skills necessary for the 21st century workplace. We prepare writers to face the challenges of effectively communicating in workplaces that are increasingly global, digital, and virtual. The program offers you the opportunity to develop writing, technology, and rhetorical skills to effectively communicate in professional contexts.

    Program Mission

    The professional writing program seeks to create an environment that encourages and supports the use and development of effective professional communication practices. We will create a professional writing community that transcends physical location, disciplinary boundaries, and professions, and will support this community by modeling and promoting our core beliefs:

    • Documents should be composed and designed to allow users to access content efficiently.
    • Collaboration fosters learning and self-reflection, and leads to creative solutions.
    • The changing workplace requires adaptable writers capable of applying their knowledge of writing, design, and technology to a variety of contexts.
    • Twenty-first century professionals must be prepared to collaborate virtually, communicate effectively across cultures, and create visual, textual, and aural media for publication on the Internet.

    For more information, contact Randy Gonzales

    Professional Writing

    The professional writing program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette emphasizes the communication skills necessary for the 21st century workplace. We prepare writers to face the challenges of effectively communicating in workplaces that are increasingly global, digital, and virtual. The program offers you the opportunity to develop writing, technology, and rhetorical skills to effectively communicate in professional contexts.

    Program Mission

    The professional writing program seeks to create an environment that encourages and supports the use and development of effective professional communication practices. We will create a professional writing community that transcends physical location, disciplinary boundaries, and professions, and will support this community by modeling and promoting our core beliefs:

    • Documents should be composed and designed to allow users to access content efficiently.
    • Collaboration fosters learning and self-reflection, and leads to creative solutions.
    • The changing workplace requires adaptable writers capable of applying their knowledge of writing, design, and technology to a variety of contexts.
    • Twenty-first century professionals must be prepared to collaborate virtually, communicate effectively across cultures, and create visual, textual, and aural media for publication on the Internet.

    For more information, contact Randy Gonzales

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