Many people want to be good writers. It is a central skill because so much of our communication is done through written channels. Everything from technical documents to emails to tweets requires writing.
Unfortunately, some regard writing as an almost mystical process where inspiration flows from your soul onto the paper where it emerges whole, perfect, and sacred. Thinking about writing this way is convenient, because then your crappy writing is the muse’s fault. But it’s more effective to realize that good writing is rarely beautiful at first. Writing is more like making a sculpture out of clay: you start with a big pile of mucky dirt (the first draft) that you have to mash all around (in a text editor) to get it to look like what you want it to look like.
Like the sculptor, the writer must master the tools—-in this case, words. But mastering words is more abstract than mastering sculpting tools, leading some people to think that mastering words must be an in-born talent that can’t be otherwise learned.
Effective use of words can be learned, though, if the aspiring writer is dedicated, disciplined, and willing to make a whole lot of ugly sculptures en route to making a beautiful one. The fact that you created many unrecognizable blobs when learning the medium might not be romantic, but it doesn’t detract from the artfulness of your eventual works of art.
Skill #1: reducing word count
You know the goal of good technical communication is to make the user successful with your product, and your higher-ups probably know that too. But “making the user successful” is hard to measure, and execs like numbers, so chances are, they’re going to be impressed by your page count. Read more…