Think first, then write 4: now start writing

Clear business writingIn this fourth and final post in the series on planning your business writing task, let’s look at the actual process of writing, or drafting, your document.

4. Now start writing

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by” – Douglas Adams

I don’t know about you, but I’ve suffered from writer’s block (very badly when I was writing my MBA thesis) and it’s horrible. And at work, missing deadlines can cost you clients. Here are some tactics I’ve learned since that make the process so much easier:

  • Do your planning first
  • Warm up
  • Write quickly
  • Polish later

Do your planning first

When you know firstly, why you’re writing, secondly, who you’re writing to and then what the outline structure looks like, the writing part will be a lot easier.

You don’t have to start at the beginning. Start with the appendix if you like. Leave the introductions and conclusions until last if you find it easier. As you start to fill in the gaps in the structure you’ll gain confidence, and speed.

Warm up

Think of writing like going to the gym – you don’t go straight to the heavy lifting or you’ll do yourself an injury. You do warm up exercises first.

Flex your writing muscles by doing some short writing exercises – not necessarily business writing. It could be as simple as writing a list (worst Christmas presents ever, dog breeds) or randomly connecting words into short paragraphs (ruler, traffic, newspaper, glass).

Just three minutes of these type of exercises can be enough to ‘unblock’ the connection between your brain and the page. I find it works best to handwrite them.
business writing steps to success

Write quickly

There is a time and place for fastidious perfectionism, and it isn’t when you’re drafting. Think ‘bulldozer’.

I used to perfect each paragraph as I went along. I wouldn’t start a section until I had polished the previous one. It was a complete waste of time because I’d end up rewriting half the document at the end anyway. Sometimes I’d spend ages polishing a paragraph only to delete it the next day. I don’t recommend this approach.

Write fast and don’t stop to perfect. If you get stuck on a word or idea, I write ‘XXX’ and move on. At the editing stage I do a search for the XXXs. Nine times out of ten I’ve figured out by then what I was trying to say.

Polish later

For business writing, fast is more efficient, but don’t forget to edit and proofread. This is the time for fastidious perfectionism! And it helps if you leave some time after finishing the writing – if you give your brain a rest you are less likely to miss errors. Overnight is ideal, but even half an hour is better than nothing.

First edit, checking for sense and flow. Check that the readability score is appropriate, and improve if necessary by shortening sentences and using simpler words. Put in transition words to give the sense of a logical flow.

Then proofread, checking spelling, grammar and punctuation. Word tools like spell checker and grammar checker are good for this, but don’t rely on them because they aren’t fool proof. If it’s an important document, get someone else to check it for you. I guarantee they will find errors you missed!

My free PDF ‘The Seven Deadly Writing Sins’ will also help – sign up on the right sidebar if you haven’t done so already.

Good luck!


PS Do you or your organisation need help with business writing skills? Click here for details of my business writing courses and one-to-one coaching.

Images courtesy of thaikrit and pakorn /

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