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Write Quickly. Edit Slowly

I know writing can be a chore for some, and we offer regular tips, such as idea mapping, to help speed up the process for business writers. One of the issues for slow writing and writer's block is the desire to write the perfect piece the first time around.

I'm here to tell you to stop demanding that sort of instant perfection from yourself or those around you. You're much better off quickly writing a mediocre or even bad first draft than you are to sit staring at paper and screen. Of course, you only can rely on a rough first draft if you build time into your deadline to edit that draft carefully.

Ideas Flow When You Write Quickly

Getting started holds up more people than refining their writing. See past blog posts to help you jump-start your business writing. And by allowing yourself to write a first draft that will need work later, you free up your mind to move past a lead sentence or other roadblock. Just keep writing . . .

Even once you get started, it helps to let the flow continue, at least until you realize you're burnt out and ineffective. Then, take a break. Use a few first-draft tricks to remind you to look up a word, statistic or grammar and style issue on the next go-round. For example, use XXX to fill in for credentials or a title of a person you must look up. Better yet, highlight the text you're questioning while drafting and come back to it later. You can complete your idea and stay in writing mode vs. editing mode.

Resting between writing spells can give you a fresh outlook, as can stepping away from the writing before you start the editing/revision phase.

Writing Improves When You Take Time to Edit

Once you have a rough first draft, you can now edit, refine and improve your writing. Read through once just to correct glaring errors, such as typos or sentences you forgot to complete. This helps keep your mind focused on context and content the second time through instead of being distracted by checking spelling, for example.

Next, read through your writing for context, making sure you expanded on topics appropriately, and covered all key ideas you had mapped or were required to address.

Finally, be sure to read any writing from the reader/recipient point of view. Pretend you know nothing of the subject, you are affected by a decision or have never used the product before.

Other tips:

  • Read through your writing in a different format, such as pasting it into an email or changing how it looks. This might help you catch missing information, errors and clarity issues more easily.

  • Reading out loud can be one of the best editing methods for your own writing.

  • Leave enough time between first draft, revision and your deadline to have someone else read your writing. A fresh pair of eyes can spot mistakes you might have overlooked or ask to clarify information you understand but your readers might not get.

  • For the most important communication, involve a writing and editing professional.

Your business writing can be better from rough draft through final version when you refine your strengths and address issues that take the most time or cause you the most trouble when writing. See our Business Writing That Counts! courses, tip sheets, coaching and other services online or call us at 425-485-3221 for more information.

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