Great communication is critical in nearly any workplace, and now that we’re communicating digitally more than we ever were pre-COVID-19, you need to make sure your written messages have the impact you want.
Whether you’re among the 17.8 million Americans who are currently unemployed as a result of COVID-19 or are part of the 62% of people who are still employed but working from home, you may have some extra time on your hands. One of the ways to be productive with that time is to work on your writing skills.
Remember that becoming a better writer is about the technical aspects of writing, like grammar, but also the nontechnical elements, like clarity and persuasion. By improving every aspect of your writing, your words can have more impact in the workplace.
Use prompts for creative writing
While creative writing may seem unrelated to writing in your job, it’s actually a great way to expand your vocabulary and rethink your way of relating to typical writing work. Instead of approaching a new project from the business point of view, for example, you may lean on your creative writing skills to think out of the box and bring a fresh perspective, which can help set you apart at work.
One simple way to improve your creative writing skills is to download a writing prompt app, like Writing Prompts (Android) or Daily Prompt (Apple). Even just 10 minutes of writing creatively each day can help you bring a more creative perspective to work.
Boost your persuasive writing skills
LinkedIn’s 2020 list of the skills that companies need now most include persuasion, which was also on the 2019 list. As Deanna Pate, brand marketing leader at LinkedIn, explained: “Leaders and hiring managers value individuals who can explain the ‘why.’ To advance your career, brush up on your ability to effectively communicate ideas and persuade your colleagues and stakeholders that it’s in their best interest to follow your lead.”
Whether you’re writing a cover letter or bringing an idea to your team, persuasion is critical. To become a more persuasive writer, consider an online course like The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking, taught by James Engell, Gurney professor of English and professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University.
Become a better storyteller
One way to improve your written storytelling skills is to listen to stand-up comedians. They’re often good writers because their goal is to get and keep your attention by telling great stories. This also happens to be key to writing in the workplace, whether you’re creating marketing copy or submitting an idea to your boss.
9 Lessons Content Writers Can Learn From Stand-Up Comedians suggests: “Analyze their narrative techniques and pay attention to how they prepare the audience for a joke. For example, have you noticed that stand-up comedians almost never begin their shows with a joke? Instead, they ask a question to create curiosity or they engage the audience by evoking a mental image.”
Tune into your favorite comedians on YouTube or subscribe to comedic podcasts. Listen to the techniques they use and weave them into your writing at work.
Improve your grammar
A creative or persuasive message won’t make an impact if the text is riddled with grammatical errors. Luckily, it’s easy to improve your grammar with online tools that highlight and remedy errors in almost any written text. These can help you learn and cleaning up your messages before you hit send. For example, the Grammarly Chrome extension works in your email, form fields on websites, and even Google Docs—and it’s free to use.
Another simple writing hack is to write your emails in a document first, so you can easily check for grammar mistakes before sending them out. Keep the doc open on your computer and just copy and paste the text in, check it, then copy and paste it back into your email. Then delete the text in the document and continue reusing it throughout the day.
Don’t let your next great career opportunity slip through your fingers because your writing skills aren’t up to par. Use these resources and ideas to bring your best writing to the workplace and make the most of your extra time during the pandemic. With better writing skills, you’re more likely to land a new job or convince your boss to let you take on that new project.
Jessica Thiefels is the author of 10 Questions That Answer Life’s Biggest Questions, podcast host of Mindset Reset Radio, and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, an organic content marketing agency. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.