Wednesday, November 1, 2000

The 12 steps to business writing success


By Steve Niles

No one can deny the importance of effective communication in the business world. Probably the most common form of communication in the corporate environment is writing, whether in email, memos, business letters, faxes, etc. Poor writing skills can lead to miscommunication, which inevitably results in lost time and lost money.

Good business writing doesn't require a college degree in the subject. Rather, the basic skills you need to effectively communicate can be acquired easily with the help of handy guidebooks like Kenneth W. Davis' Manage Your Writing.

The business of writing

Manage Your Writing is a free ebook available from at In the book, Davis outlines his 12-step approach to polishing your business writing skills.

The way he arranges his steps is unique because he numbers them as if going around the face of a clock, beginning and ending with step 12, "Manage Your Writing." This is done for two reasons. First, he says each of the twelve steps should take about five minutes in a typical one-hour writing session, and second, the act of managing your writing should be performed at both ends of the exercise to get the most out of it.

So what does Davis mean by managing your writing? Well, as he describes it, "[Writing] can be managed, like any other business process," meaning it can be done efficiently or inefficiently. He compares writing to building a house when he says:

Efficient, effective writers take better charge of their writing time; they manage their writing. Like building contractors, they spend time planning before they start construction, and once they're into construction, they don't try to do all the finishing touches as they go.

This highlights the overall theme of his book. Writing cannot be done efficiently if you agonize over each word and punctuation mark as you write it. The key is to plan in advance, pound out the material without stopping, and then take your time revising your work when you're finished. At the end of the process, it's time to manage your writing once again, by evaluating what you've just done to find ways to improve your work next time.

Tips and techniques

Along the way, Davis provides excellent tips on how to focus and sharpen your work. In what he calls the planning stage, he describes ways to get more in touch with your audience and how to organize your ideas before you begin writing. Midway through the writing process, he suggests taking a break to change hats, going from writer to editor. Finally, during the revision stage, he provides a series of tips on such subjects as the proper use of conjunctions, clarity of language, and economy of words.