Friday, September 30, 2005

The Art of On-the-Job Writing, Part 3

This installment of the WORDS ON THE LINE blog continues featuring excerpts The Art of On-the-Job Writing by writing consultant Philip Vassallo. The book offers practical advice for creating and critiquing work-related documents.

Here’s a brief excerpt from Chapter 3, “Drafting”:

Think for a moment about how you break the ice with someone you meet for the first time. You may smile at that person, nod, bow, or extend your hand, depending on your cultural and personal style. But this isn’t all you do; you also use language. Maybe you’ll say nothing more than “hello” or “how are you?” or talk about the weather. But you start using language to get the communication process going. In short, you start the speaking process by speaking.

This sounds easier than it really is. It may require overcoming internal barriers, such as self-consciousness, personal prejudices, language deficiencies, and subject-matter knowledge, as well as external barriers, such as the other person’s language comprehension and attitude about you and the purpose of your meeting. The truth is we’re so used to conversing with people, that speaking comes naturally.

Writing is different because we’re writing for readers who aren’t necessarily standing in front of us. We have to assume what questions the reader may have about our topic. We may not know the reader’s attitude, interest, or knowledge about our topic. Sometimes we might not even be sure if we’re writing to the correct person. Compound these problems with a general lack of confidence about our writing skills or a lack of knowledge about our topic or any other combination of anxieties that we may have about the writing situation, and we’re bound to hit the wall called writer’s block. Perhaps if the readers were standing beside us, they would ask the right questions to jumpstart the writing process. But they’re not. So we must write alone.

You may purchase your copy of The Art of On-the-Job Writing by clicking here: