DiceTV: Tips On Being a Better Writer

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7Z6FZqI9Ik?rel=0&hd=1&w=560&h=346]

The Script

There’s no getting around it: To get anywhere in the job market today, you have to be an  effective writer. I’m Cat Miller, and this is DiceTV.

Cat: Your resume, cover letter, thank-yous, follow ups, presentations, even your daily e-mail are judged on how skillfully you arrange and rearrange the 26 letters of the alphabet into persuasive, lively extensions of your personality.

Like any other skill, writing well takes practice. So here are some things to think about.

There’s a nifty trick the Vipassana Buddhists have in teaching awareness. They simply ask you to notice that you’re seeing. And what do you know – it works.

Do the same thing when reading. Seek out good literature. Pick up a well written business book. Be aware of how authors use words to make strong points. Watch for effective techniques from good authors, and then adapt them for yourself.

Obviously, you can’t write three finely edited drafts of each e-mail you send. If you tried, you’d never get anything else done.

But when you can, start early on written work, and make changes to your memos and presentations based on what you’ve learned by reading the work of others.

Besides improving your writing, this will help you catch the kind of simple mistakes that can drive some managers crazy. For example, you don’t want to write “loose,” when you meant “lose.” Spell check will miss that kind of thing. And it’ll get you tagged as a loser. As opposed to a looser.

Smashing Magazine has a nice little list of fifty writing helpers. Check it out and find what works for you. Then keep practicing to refine your communications even more.

I’m Cat Miller, this has been DiceTV, and we now return you to your regular desktop.

17 Responses to “DiceTV: Tips On Being a Better Writer”

  1. MattyMat

    When did the public “lose” the ability to spell “lose”. Everyone’s using “loose” — drives me crazy– makes me think you’re illiterate, immediately.

    @ brian_in_orange_county Dice’s primary focus is in the IT and Engineering fields. Being an “English minor” (whatever that qualifies you for) you need to go to Monster or Careerbuilder — or LinkedIn — and stop bashing credible sites you haven’t the slightest clue about. I’ve used Dice for years and it has been an excellent source for IT/Engineering candidates.

  2. Just_In_Case

    Hmm, I am just the opposite plenty of interviews, with no job offers. I am thinking that it must be your resume. I don¿t know what my problem is. I do believe that some take the time to actually read cover letters and resumes.

    And if it is true that most do not take the time, resumes and cover letters should still be submitted without error.


    Just in case

  3. Bruce Poropat

    My two cents: Aside from spelling, punctuation, syntax, and grammar are important. Try to write short, active voice sentences. Watch for often confused words, such as ‘which’ and ‘that.’

    “Sorry, there were no jobs posted in the past day which matched your criteria.”

    “Sorry, there were no jobs posted in the past day that matched your criteria.”

    —–Better still:
    Sorry, no jobs posted in the last day match your criteria.

  4. Ron Kennon

    I realize there are plenty of talented folks out there still on the job hunt. I considered myself one of those. But in the last six weeks, I received three job offers and accepted one of those. Point being, don’t give up. I was offered a $65/hour project manager job that I know had hundreds if not thousands of resume response. I met with the company and they may an offer, which I refused due to length of project. So, keep reminded yourself that you have much to offer and it’s just a matter of time. Good luck all.

  5. Carlos Blasco

    Being so careful and posting an advice with the phrase “They simply ask you to notice that you’re seeing.”, I wonder if you are one of those that when somebody asks you how you are, you would answer “I’m good”, or your talking is “Me and my friend”, or “Between you and me”, instead of ¿ between you and I¿.

  6. brian_in_orange_county

    RE: Comment by MattyMatt
    I was simply stating that Dice isn’t working for me.
    I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and because of that, I refuse to work for “free;” that education comes with a price. Fortunately I saved quite a bit of money, live very frugally and can afford to be choosy. I CAN say with certainty: This lousy job market has made people very tense and uptight; I’m more bored now than anything else. Good luck to those out there that need a job to stay in their homes, etc.

  7. Michelle

    this is a reply for Carlos Blasco’s comment on this page.
    Carlos, are you saying that ‘between you and I’ is the correct form or what?
    if it is what you have in mind, sorry my friend, you are so so wrong – like many many others. The correct English in this case is: between you and ME.

  8. Chad Broadus

    Re: edh1215 comment
    I wrote the original blog post that this episode is based upon.
    It’s no typo. The trick is this. All of our waking hours, we are seeing. Our eyes and brains are involved in an intricate dance that results in a chair being a chair, or even more precisely, a charcoal Herman Miller Aeron chair being a charcoal Herman Miller Aeron chair. The thing is, we don’t consciously notice this miracle of biological hardware/software precision. Once the suggestion is made that you become consciously aware that you are seeing, an interesting thing happens. You actually notice the complex interplay of sight and mind that is otherwise so automatic, we don’t “see” it.

  9. Johnathan Beck

    Another thing that might help get you noticed when writing resumes and cover letters is not using contractions. To me it looks more professional to write I am rather than I’m. I also noticed when looking at resumes and cover letter samples contractions are not used.

  10. Englebert

    Amazingly, just yesterday I corrected an established IT professional’s article on the usage of the word ‘ lose ‘ rather than ‘ loose ‘.

    Now, while it is partly true that writing skills are important, I dont believe they will catch the attention of an IT hiring manager. In fact, it would be low down on the scale of priorities after tech skills, years of experience, age, accomplishments, education etc

    No one has time to read pages of verbiage.
    Hit the key words and get noticed.

  11. Richard Phillips

    To Whom It May Concern:

    With all due respect, my experience with AMERICANS in the position to ACTUALLY do the hiring has revealed that the sum total of them seem to recoil from a potential applicant who chooses and uses her/his words carefully.

    Apparently there is a “fear” of such a person. It has been told to me in confidence that MANY hiring “experts” do NOT want anyone who might “show-them-up”.

    Plus it seems (sadly), American “culture” displays overt disdain towards those of us who don’t mangle the English Language. Think I’m making this up?

    Next time you are conducting business in a ‘popular’ retail establishment, take careful notice of how the typical sales associate communicates with the general public. It seems that poor grammar is the one common denominator all of them share. And since they are employed and I am not…well go figure?!


    Richard Phillips

  12. “They simply ask you to notice that you’re seeing.”


    Is this supposed to say: “They simply ask you to notice WHAT you’re seeing.” ?

    If so, looks like Cat needs to take her own advice here.

  13. Merry Foxworth

    No, edh1215, I believe she did mean to say “They simply ask you to notice WHAT you’re seeing”, not WHAT you’re seeing. That is to say, to be aware that you are engaging in the activity of seeing.

  14. Merry Foxworth

    There you go, I goofed. That’s what happens when you try to do things too fast and not check it! I meant to correct the first one to “THAT you’re seeing”, the way she originally had it.

  15. brian_in_orange_county

    I have been disenchanted with Dice and felt compelled to write a comment at this point. I have submitted hundreds of cover letters and email notes (with attached resumes) that have been reviewed by professional peers and have received NO responses from recruiters/HR personnel; etc. I was an English minor and have found Dice to be an ineffective job search tool. I have not had a job offer and few “nibbles” in nearly a year. I suspect that now employers use scanning software that looks for key words yet does not check for proper English; (even on the cover letters) especially when requesting salary information. I believe it’s the “Wal-Mart” mentality at work: We’ll just hire the cheapest person and see what happens. I haven’t yet seen a hiring company look at the true cost of hiring a mediocre employee.