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Let Your Writing Make a Good First Impression

In his book The Portable Mentor: Your Anywhere, Anytime, Career Coach and Problem Solver, Cy Charney, president of Charney and Associates, points out how important the quality of your first written materials are to making a good first impression. Whether it is e-mail, a sales kit, or a marketing brochure, you want to come across as a competent, articulate, knowledgeable professional.

Toward this, Charney advises:
Be clear and concise. Make sure your writing is free of jargon, nonessential words, and unnecessarily complicated sentences

Never use five words where one will do. For example, instead of “at the present time,” simply use “now”; rather than “due to the fact that,” write “because.”

Favor simple words over complicated words. Don’t write “utilize” if “use” will do.

Be authoritative—this gives people confidence in your abilities. Ruthlessly prune your writing of qualities—“a bit,” “kind of,” “quite,” “very”—that weaken your persuasiveness. A sentence such as, “This is quite a good product, and I’m pretty sure you will like it” can be deadly.

Opt for the active voice over the passive. “He hit the ball over the left-field fence” is preferable to “The ball was hit by him over the left-field fence.”

Never lie or make exaggerated claims in your writing. If your reader catches you in even one small lie, everything in your report or letter becomes suspect.

Keep your writing accessible and appealing. Use anecdotes, subheads, sidebars, bullets, and graphics where appropriate. Write in a style that is conversational and friendly, but don’t be careless or resort to slang.

The easiest way to improve your writing is to learn to edit yourself. Read over any written work, even if it’s just a one-page letter, and prune any superfluous words or examples, any passive constructions, any unnecessary jargon. More than anything else, you must be clear in your mind about what it is you wish to communicate. Remember, a cluttered mind produces cluttered writing.