Writing at Work: How to Write Clearly, Effectively and Professionally

By Neil James | Go to book overview

Introduction

Writing at work

This book is for busy professionals who write at work. Whether you are in finance, engineering or the public sector, in a law firm, a university or a corporation, your most regular product is probably a document. If writing-related tasks take up at least a quarter of your day—or will do so in the future—then this book is for you.

The problem this book seeks to address is that our education often did not prepare us adequately for workplace writing. It focused on making us technically proficient in our fields, not on how to write effective letters, memos or proposals when we actually got there. Yet after mastering your specialty, few skills are as important to your career as the ability to write well.

In 2004, the American National Commission on Writing surveyed 120 major American corporations that collectively employed eight million people. It found that writing is a threshold skill, offering the ticket into a professional career. Up to two-thirds of salaried staff have to write at work. As many as eight out of 10 companies in some sectors assess writing during hiring, and one-half assess it during promotion. Followup research in 2005 found that writing was even more important to American state government agencies, which together employed some three million people.

Despite the importance of writing, the Commission also found that one-third of professionals do not write effectively in their jobs. American companies are spending US$3.1 billion a year on training to bridge the gap. The state-level public sector spends another US$250 million.

The professionals turning up to all this training paint a confusing picture of workplace communication. Some feel that there is little wrong with their writing, and that it is rightly shaped by technical needs that can't be compromised. Others are anxious that they are getting their grammar wrong, and are looking for some guidance. Some are just fed

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Writing at Work: How to Write Clearly, Effectively and Professionally
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Planning 11
  • 1: Readers 13
  • 2: Content 30
  • 3: Structure 50
  • Structure 77
  • 4: Focus 79
  • 5: Persuasion 97
  • 6: Coherence 116
  • 7: Design 134
  • Expression 151
  • 8: Tone 153
  • 9: Grammar 169
  • 10: Words 188
  • 11: Clutter 205
  • 12: At a Glance 222
  • 13: Sentences 241
  • Review 259
  • 14: Punctuation 261
  • 15: Style 280
  • 16: Editing 297
  • 17: Proofing 313
  • Further Reading 330
  • Chapter Notes 343
  • Acknowledgements 361
  • Index 363
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