How to write like a professional

Ever feel like you don’t know what it is you read in that letter you just received or that e-mail your boss just sent you?

As an Eastern Michigan graduate student it is an everyday surprise on how most professionals lack professional writing skills.

Not only am I astonished by the lack of professionalism in the work place but also the lack of professionalism that they are supposed to teach us in college.

I have learned that writing a simple work email to writing a very important letter is rather rough in most professional settings, unless you have that one person who really knows what they are doing.

I have been an intern for the University for a year and a half now and have had the opportunity to work with outstanding leaders and professional role models.

With the experiences I have had I have also learned how your writing can be a communication tool or it can be just another, “trash filler.”

Source: Jon Donley Media

Source: Jon Donley Media

Working in a professional setting I have read important letters that make no sense, don’t get to the point fast enough or have more typos then anyone cares to read.

Of course we have all made this mistake as beginning professionals. So what are some ways to change your email or letter to something actually worth reading?

Professional Letter Tips:

  • Take the time to research and see who it is you need to contact. Having their name on the letter makes it much more personal. (“Dear Mr. Smith” vs. “Dear Potential Sponsor”)
  • Put your main point in the opening paragraph. Most readers won’t stick around for a surprise ending.
  • Be organized with your writing. Most important to least important and make sure each paragraph has a point.
  • A letter is to give someone a brief explanation on why you are contacting them, don’t give them every detail. However, make sure you put your contact information if they need more information and let them know to contact you if they have more questions.
  • Always be consistent whether it be the name of something or a format of something
  • Always have more than one person proof read important emails!

Professional E-mail Tips:

  • Always fill in the subject line with a topic that means something to your reader. Not “Shirts” or “Important!” but “Deadline for New Shirts.”
  • Put your main point in the opening sentence. Most readers won’t stick around for a surprise ending.
  • Please avoid talking like you are texting (abbreviations and acronyms): you may be ROFLOL (rolling on the floor laughing out loud), but your reader may be left wondering WTH (what the heck).
  • Always proof read what you are writing even if it is just a quick e-mail. Typos and errors can leave someone wondering what you are talking about or lead to miscommunication. Does it make sense to you?

Professional Writing Tips by Professional Writers:

  • Ernest Hemingway: Use short sentences and short first paragraphs. These rules were two of four given to Hemingway in his early days as a reporter–and words he lived by!
  • Samuel Johnson: Keep your writing interesting. “The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.”
  • Stephen King: “Read a lot and write a lot.” Reading and understanding different styles is integral to finding your own style.
  • George Orwell: Orwell offered twelve solid tips on creating strong writing, including an active voice rather than a passive one and eliminating longer words when shorter ones will work just as well.

As these are just a few tips to take account for while writing, they also seem to be areas that are forgotten about the most.

As summer is coming to an end and the new school year is approaching us fast let’s remember to always practice professionalism in our writing even if it is just a quick e-mail here and there.

Lisa McClees
Vice President of Special Events & Programs
EMU PRSSA
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