7 Questions to Help You Write Anything Better
Even when writing is not in your main wheelhouse
In my 14-year career in engineering, there is no other skill I used more than writing. And no, I don’t mean writing code. I mean English writing: Emails, Design Docs, Presentations, Proposals, Feedback, Code Reviews, you name it.
Written communication can sometimes be daunting, especially for non-native speakers—like me. I’m also not a professional writer — like many of you, I assume. I had to wrestle with my insecurities related to writing, but this year I doubled down on writing and it’s been so worth it!
In today’s article, I want to share the 7 key questions that have helped me be a better writer. I use them anytime I need to write anything, including this newsletter.
If you want to learn how I use these questions to make my writing clear, effective, and punchy, keep reading!
I’m so excited to announce my live cohort Maven course “Impact through Influence: How to influence without authority in engineering teams” is open for enrollment.
Now back to the article.
Why getting better at writing matters
In the increasingly remote asynchronous world we live in, writing has become one of the most critical skills anyone needs. We rely so much on writing to get our ideas through, and without proper communication, important ideas and messages can fall through the cracks. That’s why sharpening our writing toolkit is an effort worthwhile.
The questions I’m about to share are going to take your writing to another level. As a bonus, they work great for presentations too! Without further ado:
Q1. What am I trying to achieve?
Before I start writing anything, the first thing I need to get very clear on is my motivation. If we’re not clear on what our goal is, neither is the reader. It’s like building a house on an unstable foundation.
After I clarify the main goal of my writing, whether it's to inform, persuade, entertain, or educate, everything else flows much smoother.
One thing I try to keep in mind — although I often struggle — is to think small. If I’m trying to achieve too many goals at the same time, I’m not achieving any. I find sticking to one, at most two goals, to be the best.
Q2. Who am I talking to?
Before I start writing anything, I want to identify the specific individual or group I am speaking to — my target audience. Knowing my audience helps me figure out how to tailor my content to speak their language.