Friday, April 13, 2012

Two short takes: It's a rough draft, I think?

#1. A rough draft is only the first step.

Typically, when you’re writing for someone else, it takes time to get a clear understanding of their requirements and message. This is especially true when ghostwriting for someone. It’s hard to write what you don’t know or for someone you don’t know.

That’s why the first stab you take at the writing is called a “rough” draft. It’s not polished, complete, or in any sense final. In fact, the writing could go through multiple “rough” drafts as items are clarified, further researched, facts checked, etc.

It’s not unusual to cram everything you can into a rough draft to make sure you’ve captured all the critical information. In fact, it’s always better to start with too much and then trim.

This first rough draft means the document is tentative and subject to change; it's a baseline of sorts. Heavy reshaping is expected and the norm.

A first draft that’s rough – meaning that sentences are weak, some typos crept in, the structure isn't totally coherent, etc. – is in no way an indication that a writer has not done his or her job well.

A good first draft will contain all of the essential information that will end up polished and perfectly organized in the final draft.

So, don’t expect a first draft to be perfect! It’s only the first step in the process to a great, polished piece.

#2. I think this weakens your message.

I had a great expository writing prof in college. Her name was Elsie Elmendorf. One point she drove into my head is to avoid saying or writing “I think” or “I believe.”

Why? For two reasons:
  1. You immediately weaken your argument or point.
  2. It’s redundant.
When you are presenting your opinion on something, obviously you are presenting what you think or believe. It’s assumed and doesn’t need to be stated.

Such phrases weaken your ideas because it makes them sound wishy-washy. Here are some examples:
  • Weak: “I believe that world peace is a good goal for our country.”
  • Strong: “Our country needs to be committed to supporting world peace.”
  • Weak: “Well, what I think is that red is probably a more appropriate color for this chair.”
  • Strong: “A red chair is perfect.”
When sharing an idea, opinion, position, or preference, do so confidently by avoiding the use of “I think” or “I believe” or “in my opinion.” What you’re saying or writing will have a much greater impact.


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