The Workplace Writer's Process
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The Workplace Writer's Process

A Guide to Getting the Job Done

Anne Janzer

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eBook - ePub

The Workplace Writer's Process

A Guide to Getting the Job Done

Anne Janzer

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About This Book

If writing is any part of your job, you owe it to yourself to figure out how to get it done consistently, efficiently, and successfully.This book covers the business communication skills no one teaches you in writing class: What the "curse of knowledge" is and how to avoid itHow to streamline collaboration with simple checklistsWhy the style guide is your friend, and how to create one for your businessThe most efficient way to approach revisionHow to set up review and approval processes for successUse the practical strategies in this book to finish more projects in less time, creating content that serves your business and advances your career.

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Writing Rules That No One Teaches You

Before you commit to doing more writing at work, get your mindset in order.
Common myths and misconceptions can lead you astray. If you take a narrow view of your responsibilities as a writer, you leave a great deal to chance.
The chapters in this section expand the traditional definition of the writer at work. In addition to assembling words, successful and valued writers practice project management and basic cognitive science. They are team players at work, yet advocate for the reader.
No matter what kind of workplace writer you are today, the lessons of these chapters are key to long-term success.

Five Myths That Can Hurt You

Common misconceptions about writers and writing can hurt your chances of success. Let’s identify and debunk them here and now.
  • The Destiny Myth: Writers are special people
  • The Universal Writer Myth: Everyone can write
  • The One-Size-Fits-All Myth: Writing is writing
  • The Big Idea Myth: The idea is the hard part
  • The One-Step Writing Myth: Writing is just drafting

The Destiny Myth

Myth: Writing is destiny that people are born to.
Reality: Writing is a skill developed through effort and intention.
Some people imagine that writers are special creatures, sprung from the womb with a thoughtful look and a pen in hand. That’s the Destiny Myth, and it quickly becomes a limiting belief.
  • If you don’t think of yourself as a natural-born writer, you’ll avoid jobs or assignments that entail writing. Ultimately, buying into this myth may constrain your career options.
  • What if you pride yourself on your prose? If you believe that only “writers” should take on writing tasks, you risk becoming the writer for your group or workplace, pigeonholed into the role. This may limit your career options as well.
It’s no myth that writing comes more easily to some people than others. But as the psychologist, professor, and MacArthur genius grant recipient Angela Duckworth points out in her book Grit, natural talent is only the starting point for achievement. Effort counts much more. We prefer to attribute success and achievement to talent instead of effort, and that’s a problem. Duckworth writes:
“The ‘naturalness bias’ is a hidden prejudice against those who’ve achieved what they have because they worked for it, and a hidden preference for those whom we think arrived at their place because they’re naturally talented.”
Our persistent belief in talent as the source of success damages both those with natural talent and those who labor diligently for their achievements.
How to counteract the Destiny Myth: If you identify as a writer, let other people know the variety of the tasks involved. Expose the processes. Expose the activities of planning and revising as well as drafting. Encourage others to contribute and write.

The Universal Writer Myth

Myth: Everyone in the workplace should be able to write for the business.
Reality: Not everyone writes effective content.
This misconception is almost the opposite of the Destiny Myth, yet it can do as much damage.
The people who promote this belief are often adept with words, exhibiting strong verbal intelligence. They assume that writing is as easy for others as themselves. (People often undervalue their own strengths, not understanding that they are difficult for others.)
The Universal Writer Myth marginalizes the effort involved in effective writing.
Writing can be easy if you don’t care about who reads your content, or what they think or do after reading it.
In the business context, effective writing is trickier.
To be a valued writer, you must write valuable content.
Anyone can write 600 words on a topic vaguely related to the job and put it in a blog post. But what does it accomplish?
We’ve all seen blogs that result from the Universal Writer Myth, populated with content of little value for the prospective audience.
When you write without consideration for the reader, that’s called journaling. It’s a fine activity for personal development and deep thought, but holds little value beyond yourself.
Writing effectively for business requires that you execute several tasks, including:
  • Finding the right tone and style
  • Creating content that serves the target audience or advances business objectives
  • Fitting the writing work and deadline into existing obligations
  • Navigating internal approval and publication processes
How to counteract the Universal Writer Myth: If your workplace adheres to the Universal Writer Myth, the processes described in this book provide critical structure that helps everyone become more effective.

The One-Size-Fits-All Myth

Myth: If you’re a good writer, you can write anything with equal ease and success. Writing is writing, right?
Reality: Writing has many specialized skill sets; success in one format does not translate automatically to success in others.
Congratulations, you wrote a terrific LinkedIn ad campaign. Since you did so well, why don’t you write the product documentation next? This happened to one writer I know at a company she joined. She ran into the One-Size-Fits-All-Myth.
The myth springs from the underlying idea that all writing is alike. Once people find a skilled writer, they ask that person to handle nearly all written communications.
Would you ask the person framing out an industrial warehouse to do detailed finish work on a hand-crafted chair? They might be able to do beautiful woodworking, but you cannot tell by the way that they frame the warehouse. These are different skill sets; success in one does not indicate skill in another.
Writing effective product documentation is a specialized skill. Those who do it well are adept at looking past their existing knowledge and thinking in a linear, logical fashion. Advertising copywriting is a different art form, packing the magic of persuasion into as few words as possible.
Although you may welcome the chance to learn something new, the danger of the One-Size-Fits-All Myth is that others may not realize the learning curve you must tackle. If the people around you believe in this myth, you may be put in a situation in which, working outside your existing competencies, you cannot deliver effective content.
How to counteract the One-Size-Fits-All Myth: Once you start having success as a writer at work, you will be asked to take on projects that are outside your comfort zone. You’ll have to decide what to do about those requests.
These projects may be wonderful opportunities for growth. If you accept them, let others know that you are building new skills. If asked to write a script for a video when you have not done so before, try responding, “Let me research scriptwriting first, then scope out how much work it will involve.” If you’re not comfo...

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