Why does the way you write matter?

  1. Professional writing skills

You’re taking a qualification. You have to write an assignment or sit an exam. Surely all that matters is that you know your topic, right?

Wrong.

The way that you write something is almost as important as knowing the marketing theory, evaluating it and applying it to a company as you answer the question.

This isn’t about using ‘proper’ grammar. You don’t have to avoid ending sentences with prepositions (the type of sentence up with which I would not put). It’s about making yourself understood.

Writing is about communicating ideas. It doesn’t matter if you’re at work, in an exam or submitting an assignment. If you can’t make yourself understood the person reading your work won’t rate you very highly.

So what do to?

Keep your sentences short. Short sentences have impact. Short sentences are unambiguous.

Keep your paragraphs short. Have one (and only one) topic per paragraph. Aim for two or three sentences per paragraph.

Most importantly: use headings and subheadings.

Why headings and subheadings?

Headings and subheadings guide readers through your work. They signpost your thoughts and make it easier for readers to understand what you are saying.

When CIM/CAM examiners look at your work they are looking for a clear progression of thought leading to a logical conclusion. They usually have a marking grid divided into sections. If your major headings correspond to the sections in the examiner’s marking grid, your work will be significantly easier to mark. If your work is easy to mark the examiner will be happy. You want a happy examiner. Happy people tend to be more generous.

Punctuation matters

Try and use the odd piece of punctuation.

This is from the wonderful Eats Shoots and Leaves (Lynne Truss, 2003):

Dear Jack I want a man who knows what love is all about you are generous kind thoughtful people who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior you have ruined me for other men I yearn for you I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart I can be forever happy will you let me be yours Jill Now look at the difference punctuation makes: Dear Jack, I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy – will you let me be yours? -Jill

Dear Jack, I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men I yearn! For you I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart I can be forever happy. Will you let me be? Yours,Jill

Last thought: proofreading

If you’re taking an exam, leave time to read through your answers.

If you’re doing an assessment, get someone else to proofread your work on paper before you hand it in. You’ll be heartily sick of it (or dazzled by your own genius), but someone else might see errors and assumptions that don’t make sense. Do it on paper because we tend to skim-read on screens.

Oh, and anyone writing on a computer who doesn’t use a spell-checker doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously.

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