Proofreading and editing your written work need not wait until you are finished writing. In fact, one method of creating clear, correctly phrased, concise, and to-the-point reports, memos, proposals, contracts, letters, and all other types of written work is to follow the rules of POWER:
- Write defensively
Plan your written work. Before you pick up that pen or pencil or touch your keyboard, decide what you want to write, why you are writing it, and what you hope your document will accomplish.
Outline your ideas. You may use a formal Roman numeral type of outline or simply jot down notes, but, either way, you should put your ideas down on paper before you start to write.
Writing defensively means, as you are writing, you should think about your word choices and the organization of your document. Writing as well as you can at the beginning can help you to avoid the need for large-scale revisions later on. Many professional writers take the opposite perspective: they say that the first draft of a document should flow freely and quickly, without regard to writing rules. They believe that the writer should not be concerned with the mechanics of writing until after the first draft has been completed. I propose combining the two approaches: you should write freely, but, every so often, let’s say, after a paragraph or two, you should re-read what you have written, and tighten up your writing.
Edit your paper thoroughly as soon as you are done writing. Look for errors in terms of spelling, punctuation, vocabulary usage, grammar, etc., as well as transitions between sentences and paragraphs.
Revise your paper to make it as concise and clear as possible. Remember, if you want your work to be read and understood, it has to be readable. Do not say more than you need to in order to make your point. On the other hand, explain yourself. Just because you know what you mean, that does not guarantee that whoever reads your paper will understand your meaning. Step back, and try to put yourself in the shoes of whoever will be reading your paper. Will he or she or they understand what you mean?
By following the rules of POWER, you will be able to create documents that clearly make their points and which communicate your ideas to the reader.