So, here we are at the first main part of the course, what is professional writing? We're going to find out what we mean when we say professional writing. What is it? And what makes writing effective?

I'll be sharing with you a few tips on professional writing, many of which we go into detail on much later in the course. And we'll wrap up this section by looking at the Writing Process, those four steps of thinking, planning, drafting and editing, which, if we take them in a step-wise way, allow us to get our writing done more effectively in less time and with less stress. I have used this process myself for 500-page reports, for evaluations, for everything I write, and I've trained this successfully to thousands of people from all kinds of sectors.

And the first thing I want to say to you is that it's easier to write well than to write badly. Writing badly is hard work, it's stressful, it requires a lot of staring at the screen, constant revision, struggling for the right word, and a lot of frustration. Whereas writing well is simply about:

  • Having a clear objective.
  • Organizing our ideas well.
  • Expressing them in a simple, clear and direct way.

This will become more clear by the end of this session.

So what is professional writing? It's about action, it's about creating change, some kind of result from our writing. Something is different as a consequence of what we've written. We've made something happen, a proposal accepted, or a report's recommendations are acted on.

It's not about informing. We only inform if that information has value, and it's not about sharing, sharing for its own sake. Think about it, how much information we have to process and deal with every day. A lot of research is telling us now that people's attention spans and memories are getting shorter and shorter because we're used to processing smaller and smaller bits of information as a result of video and internet and general media. So basically our memory is almost full. There's too much information already out there.

You may know so much about your topic area, but that's far more than your reader probably needs to know. Time has become a precious resource, and we don't have time to read and fully go in-depth into everything that comes across our desk.

So again, it's not about informing, it's not about sharing, it's about change. Writing for change, writing to get some kind of result, some kind of action, some kind of change, something happening in the real world.

Think about your project proposal. What is the action that comes out of a project proposal? What do you want to happen when you submit that document? It's obvious you want it to be accepted. You want to secure funding. That's the action. That's the purpose of the document.

What about reports? Reports have a purpose too. They guide management thinking. They help us to modify the project to keep the project on track. They assist in decision making, and those decisions are based on the recommendations that the report has. So the recommendations are the action.

We're not in school anymore, and a lot of the things that I'm going to share with you about professional writing may be the opposite of what you were taught by your teachers. But we're not writing to a teacher. The teacher is an authority figure, but in professional writing, we're the authority because we're in our academic experience. The teacher knew everything. They knew more than us, the teacher or professor.

In our situation, we know more than the reader. That means we're the authority. We know more than the reader. We decide how long it's going to be, what to include, what to leave out, and what's necessary for creating that action. 

In our academic experience, the purpose of writing was to get good grades, to get an A or an A plus even, or at least a pass. Whereas we're not writing to impress our readers today, we're not writing to our donors to impress them with our grammar and our vocabulary and our in-depth knowledge on microfinance. They want to be impressed by the action, by the ideas, by the solutions that we're bringing to the table, the recommendations for action, the concepts that we are offering.

So, it's all upside down and the style of writing is also going to be quite different to what you may be used to from your academic experience. So, we know professional writing is about action.

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