Better Writing Through Rewriting

Stories of Organizational Communication, Part 6

Geri’s question: How can I (or anyone) become a better writer thru revising my writing?

Pen as instrumentHow can I become better at anything?
How does one get to Carnegie Hall?
(Practice, practice, practice.)

That’s an old joke, of course, but it says a lot. Musicians need to practice to get recognized as skilled in their craft, and they often practice the same piece over and over. Musicians -and I’m talking about the GOOD musicians, the experts at their craft, be it Yo Yo Ma or Steve Vai or Usher – they all dig into a piece that they plan to play. They practice measure by measure, staff by staff. They play a phrase and then they reflect: was that pianissimo soft enough? Did I get enough reverb off the last chord? And then they practice it again.

Rewriting is kind of like that, where the computer keyboard (or, if you’re old school like me, the pen) is your instrument.

  • If you’re trying to write a best-selling novel, you’re going to be like a musician and analyze every sentence, every phrase, every word.
  • If you’re drafting a presentation or writing a report, you’re going to analyze every paragraph. Am I clear enough? Am I forcing my audience to make assumptions because I’m leaving something out?
  • If you’re writing an email, you’re going to read over the email for tone and complexity. Am I writing something that someone will read, or skim, or ignore?

Let’s go back to that offhand comment I made – thank goodness I don’t write like I think. Actually, I do, at first. When I write something – email, training material, anything – I typically write down the basic information my audience needs to know first, and in the way that I usually write — like I’m talking.

Sometimes that’s enough. Give ’em the basics then get out of their way. But more often the basics just bring out more questions – who else is involved? What details support the main action? Can I provide a little advice on how to proceed?

So the first draft gives them the basics. The reviews and rewrites address the details, and edit my conversational voice into a written voice.

What I learned over time is that my communication is clearest when I can distill it down to three key sentences:

  1. This is what you need to know/do.
  2. This is why you need to know it.
  3. This is when it needs to be completed.

More often than not, that becomes my structure.

Before you put something out there, reflect on what you produced. See if you can make it better. Hone your skills by doing so.

This is one of a series of posts inspired by question prompts from Geri Girardin, the instructor of DHTV’s Organizational Communication course. Other posts in the series were:

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3 thoughts on “Better Writing Through Rewriting

  1. […] How can I (or anyone) become a better writer thru revising my writing?  […]

  2. […] How can I (or anyone) become a better writer thru revising my writing?  […]

  3. […] How can I (or anyone) become a better writer thru revising my writing?  […]

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