Ecriture en Anglais : Writing Well in English
Ecriture, Redaction, oeuvres, message, contrat……..
Writing well in English is often one of the main goals and objectives for international lawyers and business professionals who are not native English speakers. I have worked with a lot of folks in my Cours d’Anglais juridique in Paris and it is often one of their main concerns: How do I improve my written English communication skills? Well, actually, I have news for you: writing well in English is the goal for lawyers and business people, period. That means that no matter where we are and who we are all of us as professional people want to improve our written and verbal communication skills. Because English is the lingua franca of the international community however, the pressure is greater on those who are not native English speakers to improve their skills. The playing field is not level in that respect. Who ever said that life was fair? You will probably never be the best writer in English in the entire world, but there are certain things you can do to improve your skills over time, and be the best that you can possibly be.
The first thing to remember is that you should not become frustrated if you think your writing skills (in English) are not perfect. Join the club; nobody is perfect at writing in English. Even the most talented writers who are native English speakers know that there is always room for improvement.
Here are some other things to remember:
- The writing process is exactly that: a process. You cannot expect to get it right on the first draft. You have to give yourself room to cut, paste, add, subtract and totally re-analyse a piece of writing whether it is an email or a contract or a petition to the court. It is called editing or drafting. This is a fundamental aspect of the craft of writing and you have to respect this and make peace with it and embrace it. Sometimes, you have to put the piece aside for some time (sometimes months if time permits) and then return to it for the next draft. Distancing yourself from the piece for a bit helps you to get a better grasp of exactly what is wrong with it.
- Plan your writing before you even put your fingers to your laptop. Start at the beginning, in other words by brainstorming, discussing the project with others, mapping out your ideas.
- Focus on achieving clarity, logical flow of ideas, coherence and unity.
- KISS it. That means Keep It Short and Simple to the extent that you can.
- Improve your vocabulary. Keep adding new words to your repertoire every chance you get.
One of the main problems for people whose native language is not English is figuring out how to organize their thoughts, sentences, paragraphs and ideas. Here are some points to keep in mind:
- Start with a clear opening sentence or statement.
- Use the information you have been given; try not to invent your own facts unless appropriate to the project.
- Take logical leaps; group similar ideas together; put dissimilar ideas in different paragraphs.
- Support your statements by providing examples when appropriate.
- Sequence your work by going from the general to the specific; using transitional words and signposting. (Use words like first, second, last, then, For this reason, consequently and in addition, etc.)
Understand that there is no such thing as a “right” style of writing. Everyone has their own style and you should be proud of your own style. But you should remember to factor certain things into the style of your work (whether it is an email, report, memo, etc) depending on certain variables such as:
- The audience – who are you writing for? This will determine things like the words you choose, the tone, length and structure of your writing.
- The purpose – why are you writing? To inform? Persuade? Defend? Warn? Explain?
These are just some preliminary starting points for you to keep in mind when you are faced with the challenge of writing well in English. Just remember to use a pyramid scheme for things like emails. Start with the most important point first then work your way down to things that are less important.