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A stumbling block for many team members wanting to progress into management positions is their writing ability. Poorly structured and unclear reports are major culprits that let many applicants down. Even if writing is not your strong point, here are 3 simple strategies to help you get a step closer to that promotion.

Strategy 1. Write an outline

When writing reports and other complex documents, setting out the structure of your document before you start writing is essential. An outline will help you organise your thoughts and stay on topic as you write your drafts.Step 1Jot down your ideas. Write down any words or phrases that relate to the topic and purpose of your report. If several team members are working on the report, you can do this together as a brainstorming exercise. ‘Jot down’ is key here – don’t break the flow of ideas by trying to craft complete sentences.Step 2Group your ideas. Study your words and phrases and group them into broad topics. Once you have grouped your topics, identify which are the most important. Include only what your reader needs to know and delete any topics that are not important or relevant.Step 3.Structure your topics. Order your topics into a logical sequence. For example, problem followed by solution is a common structure in business writing. For an incident or progress report, you might choose a chronological structure. For a business case proposal, an advantages followed by disadvantages structure could be effective.Step 4. Write your headings and subheadings. At this stage, don’t worry about getting the wording right as you can easily refine the headings later.

Your outline is now done and you can begin to fill in the gaps to create your first draft. Following this method will not only save you time, your report will be easier to read and is likely to get better results.

Strategy 2. Set each draft aside then review it

When you write your first draft, resist the temptation to make any changes as you write. Just get the words down in a logical sequence, then put your writing aside. Ideally, allow at least 24 hours before you review your work, longer if possible. The longer you set your writing aside, the easier it will be to spot flaws in structure and wording as well as typos. Come back to your draft several times, allowing space between each review. 

Strategy 3. Ask a colleague or writing mentor to review your work

When you have worked on a piece of writing for some time, it’s easy to lose perspective. It can also be difficult to be objective when writing about a sensitive issue, such as responding to a complaint. A colleague who has not read your report can quickly highlight areas that need improvement. Getting feedback on your writing is like clearing the fog from the windscreen of your car on a rainy day. Suddenly you can see what was not obvious to you before.

These 3 strategies alone are not a guarantee you will land that management position, but the way you approach writing reports may just be the missing link. Once you have developed these good writing habits, you can focus on honing your writing style so that your paragraphs are well structured and your words are clear and concise.

If you have never had training in business writing skills, now is the time to explore your options. Concise Writing Consultancy offers online and face-to-face training for individuals as well as groups. We love nothing more than helping people improve their writing.

For all your business writing training needs, contact Concise Writing Consultancy today on 02 9238 6638 or email patricia.hoyle@concisewriting.com.au