How to Write Good*

If you’re like me, you read that headline and thought “That’s a mistake and should say well instead of good!” You are correct, but many young professionals might miss that error.

My seventh grade English teacher encouraged us not to use the word “good” unless absolutely necessary. The word “good” has so many excellent synonyms that can make sentences fantastic. Your writing will be more colorful and interesting when you choose a synonym.

You don’t need to use high-level vocabulary to the tune of William F. Buckley, but readers will notice when you use a wider variety of words and proper grammar as a habit. Here are some points to consider that can improve your writing:

1. Emails are writing. In this day and age, it is easier to type a quick email to someone that contains abbreviations, grammar errors, lower case proper nouns, and other short cuts. You might want to take the extra seconds or minutes to type your emails in a more formal way, especially on your business account to your colleagues. You don’t want your boss ROFL due to your grammar and spelling errors…

2. Don’t rely on spell check. Your spell check will catch most mistakes, but doesn’t know the contextual difference between “you’re” and “your” or “there” and “they’re” because those are spelled correctly. It also doesn’t catch misplaced apostrophes in phrases that are not possessive such as “He is 50 year’s old” or “American’s are patriotic.” You are responsible for catching these errors.

3. Beware the cut and paste. We’ve all cut and pasted text without reviewing the details, only to regret sending when we realize we forgot to change the name of the recipient or an important detail in the body of the text. I often receive intern and job applications that were cut and pasted. Some have the wrong organization as the place the applicant “really wants to work” or could “add a great deal to the team.” If that is the case, why should I consider the application for AFF?

4. Always proofread!

Writing is an important skill that can distinguish you. Unfortunately, it seems that fewer and fewer college graduates are prepared for professional level writing. Don’t allow preventable writing, spelling, and grammar errors to hold you back from success.

Roger Custer is executive director of America’s Future Foundation.

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