Adopting the Plan-Draft-Edit Principle for Your Business Writing
Prepare yourself for one of the most important pieces of advice when it comes to business writing: Invest time in planning your messages. And that means every message. Even an everyday communication such as an email can have a profound impact on your success. Everything you write shows people who you are.
Would you respond to an email asking for a referral or an informational interview if it was badly written and full of errors? Probably not. And who can blame you? Or maybe, you’ve seen a long, expensively produced document with an email cover note that’s abrupt and sloppy. A poorly written email message doesn’t help the cause — whatever the cause may be.
The planning is a step-by-step process that leads to good decisions about what to say and how to say it. It’s a process that will never fail you, no matter how big (or small) the writing challenge. And it’s quite simple to adopt — in fact, you may achieve surprisingly quick results. You may also find that after applying this process, you enjoy writing much more.
This strategic approach has no relation to how you learned to write in school, unless you had an atypical teacher who was attuned to writing for results. Start by tossing out any preconceived ideas about your inability to write, because everyone can learn to write better.
When you have a message or document to write, expect your time to be divided equally between these tasks:
Spend one-third of your time deciding what to say (planning), one-third to writing your first draft (drafting), and finally, one-third to sharpening what you wrote (editing).
You probably wonder if this system helps you write faster or slower. For most people it’s a time shift. When you take a write-first-then-think approach, you probably get lost in the middle, then stare at your important messages for a while with vague questions about whether they could read better or be more persuasive. Planned messages are easy to organize, and the effectiveness is built in because you’ve already customized the content to your goal and reader.
What about the editing time at the end? If you don’t review your messages at all before sending them, you are doing yourself a disservice. A professional writer with decades of writing experience would never send a business communication — even a simple-looking email — without careful review and improvements. Nor should you. The stakes are too high. You need to be your best in everything you write.
The real issue is less about time and more about results. Planned messages bring you what you want much more often. Also, this approach quickly becomes a habit and more — it becomes a problem solver. Practice it every day with routine messaging, and you’ll be ready to field big challenges with confidence.