Let’s put aside the usual fine points regarding grammar, punctuation, and word use in favor of two broader ideas for improving our writing in 2017:
1. Make sure our writing reflects the way we talk.
2. Look for opportunities to make our writing more precise.
See how these two objectives complement each other.
1. Yes, our writing should be superior to our speech in many ways – better organized, clearer, more concise, more error-free – but it should also seem natural. A friendly, conversational tone is key to forging a strong connection with our readers.
That means, for example, there’s no reason to prefer utilize over use. Why write, “Did you utilize that information I gave you?” We’d most likely say use, so why not write it? Why get fancy, as though we are shooting for a higher grade on a term paper?
2. At the same time, we do want our writing to transcend our spontaneous speech, and a vital way to accomplish that is through greater precision. So, a good meeting might become unifying or refreshing. A bad meeting, disjointed or tedious. An interesting finding, instructive or surprising. An amazing result, promising or unprecedented.
The trick is saving time by writing more naturally and using those extra minutes to see where we can sharpen our ideas through more precise language. Doing so can markedly improve our writing and make the writing process more enjoyable and fulfilling. Try it.
Happy new year.