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Your document's finished or is it?

Your document’s finished – or is it?

It’s time to start composing that important document! But once you start, it’s tempting to ‘go for it’ and write as much as you possibly can. The thoughts are coming thick and fast, and you’re intent on capturing them all before they vanish again! Then it’s done, and a weight is lifted from your shoulders! Your document’s finished – or is it? 

No, in most cases it isn’t.  This first draft is a long way from being the finished version.

Be sparing with your words

When the first draft is done, go away and do something else, or come back and finish the document next day after a good night’s sleep. When you read your work afresh, you’ll probably find instances of duplication, repetition and over-use of the same words, sometimes in the same sentence. You may find yourself using the red pen liberally!

Usually less is more: you’ll make greater impact by being sparing with your words – don’t use ten words where two will do.

Punctuation is like breathing

When you’ve finished writing the document, look carefully at punctuation.  When we’re putting ideas across, we’re not necessarily thinking about punctuation, so sentences can easily become too long. Think of punctuation like breathing – you don’t want to hold your breath too long while you read to the end of the sentence. You want to breathe in and out comfortably, absorbing the meaning in bite-sized parcels as you breathe. Consider making two sentences out of one. Commas and dashes help to break up sentences too, making the meaning clearer.

When it’s sent, it’s sent!

Even the best writer in the land can miss mistakes such as misspellings, omitted words, poor punctuation. To remove errors, always re-read what you’ve written. Do this either a few hours later or next day, whether the finished document is a marketing proposal, newsletter, conference paper or something else. Pay attention to headings – it’s amazing how many errors are missed here.  I frequently ask my husband to read what I’ve written and invariably he makes positive comments that improve what I thought of as a finished document. When it’s sent, it’s sent!

It makes good sense, especially if time’s pressing, to ask a colleague or even someone who’s got no connection with the subject to read the finished document with a fresh pair of eyes. Because you’re so closely involved, sometimes it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees!

There are some useful online tools to help you produce error-free documents, such as Grammarly: Free Writing Assistant. You can also find more tips to empower your writing here.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Good points Helen, well said! It is amazing how often people can miss their own mistakes, until their document is printed/sent – and it is too late. Agh.

    To assist this, and to ensure one really scrutinises ones own work, and goes through the labour of making improvements, I have two more tips. 1) Imagine it is written by someone else by giving it someone else’s name; or 2) call it Draft 1, and be prepared to go up to Draft 3 or 4 before it is really finished.

    Hope that helps everyone.

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