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Five Common Errors to Correct Before Submitting a Letter or Report

First impressions count in writing too! So it is always a good idea to carefully check documents such as letter, reports, and proposals before submitting them. Below are five of the most common errors.

1. The document isn't tailored for its audience. For example, a proposal does not speak to a client in a "you" tone. Sometimes, it includes terms that a client may not understand. After giving your document some time to cool off, reread it as your client would. Remember to mark jargon and underline unclear sentences.

2. The document isn't organized well. In other words, its paragraphs do not flow smoothly from one to the next. That is, a given paragraph may cover a totally different aspect instead of clarifying a point. This problem can be fixed or avoided altogether by numbering paragraphs in a draft and writing a few words that summarize what you said. What you'll have is a quick outline of the entire document. You'll also see any organizational flaws in a glance and be able to deal with them directly.

3. The document's sentences don't flow well. One sentence does not flow smoothly from the last. No examples, clarification or short explanations are included. To avoid this problem, never assume that your reader automatically understands what you mean. Help your audience to visualize. Instead of writing "some" or "many," use numbers or percents. This will help to prevent misunderstandings. For example, I may interpret "many" as one thousand instead of a million.

4. The document merely ends or uses trite words such as "in conclusion." Doing something like this leaves an audience cold. Fix this problem by capitalizing on one last opportunity to emphasize your main point and summarize and highlight your point or points in the final paragraphs. Even if your readers forget all of the other details, they will likely remember your main point.

5. Check for mechanical and spelling errors. Have you used "there" when you meant "their?" Do your subjects and verbs agree?

Dorothy Zjawin, a technical writing mentor and instructor, has helped and continues to assist her clients in improving their writing skills. She has also written technical documents and developed her own website, http://www.profitable-pen.com

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