Our new book Look Out Above! examines the critical soft skills required for professional success: Contribute, Write, Present, Pitch, Lead, and Advocate. We also explore the transformation process as you develop confidence and learn to trust your own judgment.
Thanks for taking the assessment. Here’s how you scored on each skill:
Please see below tailored material in the area where the assessment shows you could use the most improvement.
It looks like you could use some help learning how to write more effectively in the workplace. A survey of executives at 120 major American corporations employing nearly eight million people found that writing is a “threshold skill” for both employment and promotion of salaried employees. Executives emphasized, “Writing ability could be your ticket in . . . or it could be your ticket out,” “All employees must have writing ability,” and “You can’t move up without writing skills.” And the higher you go, the more your writing ability matters. So let’s get right into it.
Here are a few of our favorite business writing mistakes, and how to avoid them:
Put quotation marks in the right place. Periods and commas go inside quotation marks. All other punctuation marks go outside of the quotation marks unless they are part of the quote itself. And so:
Nick, here, coming to you from across the pond. Apparently, the Brits put periods and commas outside of quotation marks. So unless you’re in the London office, do it the stateside way.
Master the serial (aka Oxford or Harvard) comma. The serial comma is the final comma (or not) in a list of things. For example: “Dean Wormer counseled Bluto not to go through life drunk, fat, and stupid.” The serial comma is the one after the word “fat.” Despite style guide discrepancies, we advocate that you always include the serial comma. Doing so promotes a consistent style, saves you from deciding what to do on a comma-by-comma basis, and ensures clarity.
Conform singular and plural references. A pronoun referring to something earlier in the text (its antecedent) must agree in number – singular or plural – with the antecedent. This sentence is flawed: “Look at what a job candidate has done to reveal what they can do.” “Job candidate” is singular; “they” is plural. Make both the pronoun and the antecedent plural (“Look at what job candidates have done . . .”) or make both singular (“. . . to reveal what he or she can do”). The culprit is often a mismatched “they” or “them” when referencing a singular pronoun such as anyone, everyone, someone, no one, and nobody.
Eliminate typos. Not catching typos is sloppy, and as typos accumulate they suggest you didn’t bother or don’t know how to proofread. Develop a disdain for typos and ferret them out. Whatever editing technique you use, whether pen-to-paper or on-screen, challenge yourself starting now to make every written communication you send flawless. Proof every document, email, and text before sending.
This should get you started, but for more on how to level-up your corporate writing skills, pick up a copy of Look Out Above! and skip ahead to Chapter Two. We go in-depth addressing the most common problems we see with the business writing of young professionals with help on organizing your document, writing concisely, and writing correctly. All to the end of making your writing more simple, powerful, and effective (note the use of the Harvard comma in this sentence!). And while you have the book, check out the other chapters, too. We promise they’re worth your while.