Write Now

By Heather Baldwin

Does this sound familiar? You need to send an important email to a major client, so you sit down at your computer and stare at the screen. You stare and stare, and then finally you start writing. Then you delete what you wrote, get a cup of coffee and start again. Before long an hour has passed and you’ve got maybe one good sentence. It’s a common problem that stems from not having a plan for writing, says Sue Hershkowitz-Coore, author of Power Sales Writing (McGraw-Hill, 2003). To write more quickly, clearly and powerfully, follow her three-step process every time you need to put something in writing.

1. Prewrite. This step helps you focus on what you need to say before you actually sit down to say it. It requires that you answer these four questions: Why am I writing? What do I want to say? What do I want to accomplish or what is my motivation for writing? What is the next step and who will take it? Sure, they’re simple questions, but they’ll force you to figure out why you’re writing and what you want to accomplish. Write down the answers, refer to them often and you’ll save yourself hours of deleting and staring at the screen. “Prewriting helps you write more powerfully because you begin with a clear understanding of the purpose of your document,” says Hershkowitz-Coore. “When you know where you’re going and how you want to get there, you have a better chance of reaching your destination.”

2. Write. Now that you know what you want to accomplish with your letter or email, sit down and start writing. Don’t be critical of what comes out. Put a lid on the analytical part of your brain—that part that says: delete that, it’s no good; change that; that’s not the right word. Keep moving forward with your words, no matter what. If you can’t think of the exact word you want, just type the word WORD or use a jumble of symbols and keep going. “Don’t waste your time trying to think of the perfect word during the creative step. Create during the creative step,” says the author.

3. Revise. Here’s where you can unlock the analytical part of your brain and put it to work. Read what you just wrote. Does it accomplish your objective? Is your message clear? Do you like the tone? Does it come across as polished and professional? This is step where you can change words, move sentences, tighten up a rambling paragraph and check spelling and grammar. With these revisions, you transform the rough sketch of your thoughts into a clear and coherent message.

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