Do you feel stressed when writing reports, articles and blogs in English? Are you like one of our international clients who told us: “I can make myself understood in meetings and presentations but, even with an MBA, I never feel confident about publishing my written English”? Are you spending too much valuable time and energy crafting copy for corporate narratives, when you could be focusing on developing strategy?
You are not alone. This is a common problem for many senior managers and executives – particularly non-native English speakers. Quite simply, writing clearly and professionally in any second language will be more challenging – and definitely more time-consuming – than speaking it.
Naturally, our clients turn to us for help with their marketing communications, for everything from light editing to drafting original copy. As well as helping them avoid common mistakes, we edit for style and tone so their writing sounds natural and engages their audiences. This includes checking their translations for sense, as well as smoothing out idioms, clichés and unusual phrasing.
How to get by without a writer
However, we know it’s not always appropriate or practical to ask a professional writer to check every piece of copy. That’s why we also give our clients constructive feedback and advice (as well as tracking changes in documents) to help build their confidence. Here are five particularly useful websites we recommend to them, which can also help you improve your business writing skills:
- The Plain English Campaign: This straightforward site has free guides in PDF format about how to write in plain English.
- The Guardian Style Guide: This is an easy to use A-Z style guide with clear advice on basic grammar.
- The Economist Style Guide: With its passion for clarity and excellent coverage of international organisations, countries and standard abbreviations, this is the go-to guide.
- Perfect English Grammar: A handy blog with comprehensive grammar guides and ‘teach-yourself’ exercises; written by an English teacher and aimed at non-native English speakers.
- Grammar Girl: As Mignon says about her website, this offers “quick and dirty tips” on style and grammar – it’s fun and irreverent but also incredibly useful.
Do you have any favourite sites you turn to for help with your writing? Please post your suggestions below. If you have any questions about copywriting, please feel free to email or Skype us for an informal chat about how we might help.
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Thank you for reading
This post is part of an occasional series on business, social media and communications. If you found it interesting or useful, please share it with others.
Huw and Wendy