Monday, 3 March 2014

                                              Writing Strengths and Weaknesses

We all have writing strengths and weaknesses – even the most professional veteran writers.

While it’s easy to tell when something is written poorly by another person, it’s different when reading
one’s own text. When revising our own, we often overlook a preposition out of place, a misspelled word
or a string of redundant sentences. Being aware of your writing weaknesses is the first step towards
eliminating them. However, if you say, “I don’t have any weaknesses”; you’re only fooling yourself. With
this statement, it becomes obvious that one primary weakness is your lack of awareness. Besides, even
the most veteran writer admits to having a weakness or two.

Some professional writers define writing weaknesses as a lack of attention to detail or being disorganized.
In contrast, this book defines writing weaknesses as it relates to words, phases, clauses and sentence
structure during the writing process.

What do you think are your weaknesses? How can you identify them? Think back – have any of your
writing assignments been rejected or returned for a rewrite? Were you told why? Were your limitations
identified? If not, here are some suggestions to help you identify writing weaknesses:
• Review rejected reports and mandated rewrites to determine what was lacking.
• Ask a trusted friend, co-worker or teammate for input. Is the problem word usage,
punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, etc.?
• Read text into a recorder and play it back. Listen for clarity – write down what sounds
unclear or confusing.
• Identify how to move your weaknesses into the strengths column.
• Take online interactive writing quizzes that provide answers.

Pre-writing Techniques


The pre-writing phase refers to activities done before putting pen to paper or fingers on the keyboard.
The main difference between this phase and the writing phase is that it removes writer’s block, allows you
to discover subtopic options you didn’t know you had and reduces wasted time during the writing phase.
In short, it helps you generate words, record ideas and develop a “draft” plan using specific techniques.
In business settings, the pre-writing phase can consist of a verbal process such as responding to sales
figures, internal reports, news articles or a formal presentation. In academic settings, pre-writing can
include the introduction of topic materials for a writing assignment, note-taking based on a lecture or
performing an Internet search. In both situations, some information, materials or text has been provided
to you. However, the techniques presented in this chapter assume that you are staring at a blank sheet
of paper or computer screen with nothing having been provided. 

Manual Techniques

Mapping, Dividing and Questioning are three manual techniques that remove writer’s block, generate
ideas and words, which can be used to develop an outline for your document or correspondence.
Before using these techniques, you must first determine the purpose and identify the audience (see Tip
Sheets One and Two). Your document can have one purpose or multi-purposes. Likewise, the audience
could consist of one type reader or a mixture of readers at various levels.
Mapping Technique

Unlike brainstorming and free writing, mapping identifies connectors related to your purpose and
audience. It’s an orderly visual representation that generates words, phrases or clauses without judging if what comes up is relevant or not.

For example: let’s use the topic risk management. The purpose is to convince and the audience consists
of lay persons (support staff). Based on the purpose, you could use the following connectors: plans,
solutions, evaluation, rewards, projects, benefits, advice, etc. Knowing the audience, connectors such as
promotions, safety, sales, training, time and cost impact can be used. To practice this technique, identify
a topic and follow the steps below.


 Dividing Technique

When you know the subject, but feel stuck, this technique helps you develop an organized, coherent
outline using the process of division. Using “key words” related to your topic, select two or three words
that define each key word. The chart below shows how “risk management” could be divided into two
sections or major headings and those sections divided even further. Because each division actually
describes or reinforces the key word, your outline will be coherent – connected. Consequently, you
continue this division process as long as it’s practical to do so.
The dividing technique entails three simple steps:

Step One – Divide the key word or main topic into comparable parts to obtain letters A and B of your
Step Two – Divide each A and B or major heading to obtain sections 1, 2, 3, etc.
Step Three – Next, divide each numbered section to obtain minor headings or subheadings for sections
a, b, c, etc.

                              Questioning Technique

Using this method removes writer’s block since it requires a response to applicable questions based on
the subject: X. It’s an effective way to start the writing process because it brings your topic into focus
and forces you to put words on paper. This technique produces surprising results. In addition to the
amount of text generated, you will also discover unknown subtopic options that you didn’t realize are

Writing Phase

Writing consists of using a sequence of letters, characters, symbols, tactile signs or words to form a
thought. However, writing style is the manner in which you choose to present information to the reader.
This includes word choice, sentence structure, paragraph flow, punctuation and other factors associated
with the writing phase.
As presented in Chapter Three, knowing the reader(s) and purpose determines the style and tone in
which your content is written.When strategically applied, these writing techniques eliminate 5-D readers:
Distracted, Disinterested, Disengaged, Disenchanted and Discouraged.
Manual Techniques
This chapter presents nine practical techniques for writing business and technical documents: Triangle
and Inverted Triangle, Expanding, Planning-the-Piece, The P-F-S Rule, Mathematical Formulae, Venn
Diagram, FencePost Scheme, Coring and Endings. However, some are best used for technical writing by
a Subject Matter Expert (SME). These techniques reinforce the four characteristics of effective writing as
defined by the American Management Association (see Tip Sheet Four). They ensure that relationships
among ideas are clear and flow smoothly from one section to the next.
Triangle and Inverted Triangle
When writing your document, you have two options for presenting the information: triangle or inverted
triangle. Using the triangle approach requires putting the most important information at the top, in the
beginning of your report or correspondence. Whereas when using the inverted triangle, you “set the
stage” by presenting background information first and the main point last.


The Expanding Technique helps develop a topic sentence or key statement that expresses the main
focus of your document. Normally it’s placed at the beginning of your document in the introduction.
Expanding adds substance to short choppy sentences and aids in removing writer’s block. Once you
identify a short, choppy sentence that is incomplete or unclear, expand that sentence by asking and
answering six questions or less: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?


Send to the Human Capital and Development Branch Manager.
Who – already answered
What – the progress report
When – July 25
Where – Houston office
How – Federal Express
Based on what you want to emphasize, determines where to write your response in the sentence (see
options below).
• How – Using Federal Express, send the progress report to the Human Capital and
Development Manager’s office in Houston.
• When – On July 25, send the progress report by Federal Express tothe Human Capital and
Development Manager’s office in Houston.
• What – The progress report will be sent by Federal Express to the Human Capital and
Development Manager’s office.

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