5 tips to improve your writing

Written communication plays an important role in effective Project Management. Much of the evidence used to assess the competency of a project manager according to the PMI®’s Project Manager Competency Development Framework (PMCDF) will be in written form. If writing is not your strength, these tips will help you to start laying a good foundation.

1 Get training

There are many courses available on the Internet, teaching the basics (such as grammar and punctuation), as well as advanced subjects, such as academic or technical writing. (Some courses, including those at Khan Academy, are free.)

You can also pay a private tutor. Some tutors work online via Skype.

2 Use the checking tools built into software

Word processing software such as Microsoft Word typically has a number of built-in checking tools: spell checker, format checker, and even grammar checker. The free and paid versions of Grammarly are excellent too, and professional writers use them too.

English is a difficult language, though. A conventional built-in checker won’t necessarily reveal all the problems, especially problems with writing style.  This is where Tip 5 comes in.

3 Structure your text using styles

Your documentation needs to be easy to read, but it should also be easy to maintain.

There are actually two things to learn here: structuring text and using styles. In a moment, you’ll see why we mention them together.

Structuring text

When we talk about structuring text, we’re talking about grouping together information that belongs together. Depending on the length of the document, grouping may involve creating chapters or sections, headings and subheadings. For example, in this article, we want to make five main points, so we have grouped together the information under five headings. We’ve also added some introductory text beneath the article’s title.

Using styles

How did we make these headings? Did we select each line of heading text and increase the font size by clicking until it looked right? No, we used styles.

The picture shows how we selected different types of headings in our Web editor to make the headings on this page stand out as headings. How these headings appear to you on the Web (i.e. the font, colour, size and so on) are defined in the stylesheet for the Web site.

Using styles in Web editor

Styles are a feature of many types of text editing software. In our List of Terms video, we demonstrate how to use styles in Microsoft Word to create consistency.

In some software, text styles can also used to automatically create a table of contents.

The picture below shows a proposal for one of our clients. We use styles not only to keep the look of the text consistent, but also to move different parts of the document and to promote or subordinate these parts in relation to each other.

Styles in a document.

4 Find out what works for neurodivergent people

Neurodivergent means being neurologically “wired” in a way that’s different from average (neurotypical) people. (Neurodivergent and neurotypical are cultural terms rather than medical ones; medically it would be hard to define what is neurologically ‘normal’ overall.) Dyslexia and ADHD are examples of neurodivergence.

Learning strategies and tools designed to work for a specific neurodivergent group, often work very well for other people too.

Have you always struggled with spelling and punctuation? When you read or type on a screen, do you find the glare and the clutter disturbing? Do you struggle to make out the letters in words and the words in paragraphs? Find out what dyslexic adults do to help with these things.

If your mind wanders while you’re reading a long article, consider installing a text-to-speech app, or one that will serve up the text in bite-sized chunks.

5 Ask someone to read your writing

Even if you’re pretty good, it’s sometimes difficult to spot your own own mistakes. (Did you notice the mistake in that last sentence?) Ask someone to proof-read your writing before you send it off to its destination.

PS: Want a sixth tip? If writing doesn’t already play an important part of your life, this one is for you: Write something every day. (Just like in the Project Management Concepts course.)

Tania Melnyczuk

Director of Programme Design at ProjectManagement.co.za and the Collaboration Director of the Autistic Strategies Network.


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