Do you want the skills to make your living as a professional writer? Or do you need to improve your writing skills for the job you already have? Maybe you want to know how to write a book, write articles and blog posts, want writing tips, or you do computer training or web design. Whether you do online writing, proposal writing, grant writing, create marketing ideas or just general business correspondence, your writing skills are important and there are many techniques you should know.
This course takes you through the processes, grammar, business sense, compositions, stylistic choices and software skills you need to be successful. We focus on business writing, and this course has special instruction for technical writing, but if you want to do creative writing — like write a short story or write a book — much of what's in here will apply to you, too. You will get straightforward explanations and exercises for rewriting bad prose into good.
Contents and Overview
This course has over 80 lectures and 1.5 hours of content. It's designed for you, regardless of your experience level, to develop skills in these areas:
This course takes you through the skills you need to write professionally. Whether you want to make your living as a full-time writer or if you want to be a better writer as part of your job, this course will teach you the necessary skills. By the time you finish, you will know how to develop a style, use basic grammar properly, understand which words to use and not use in various situations, how to write a business letter that people will read, how to criticize someone without being mean or getting personal, how to write conversationally, how to use techniques and tools for technical writing, and more.
Don't worry that this is a boring English class! We spend just a short amount of time on grammar to make sure you know it, then get to the business of refining your techniques.
Essential steps you should take before beginning a project
Ask yourself what you should say and how you should say it.
Quick review of what a sentence must be.
You can break the rules if you know what they are.
How do you best improve the specific type of writing you want to do?
Together, we'll take a typical business letter and re-write and improve it.
Test what you learned in section 1.
What are the components of style to consider?
What does it mean to use the active voice?
Why should you almost always write in the active voice?
We take sentences written in the passive voice and together, we rewrite them so they sound better in the active tense.
What do run-on and choppy sentences look like? Here's how to improve them.
Writing that has rhythm can hold your reader's attention. Let's see a couple of examples.
Paragraph structure is important. You should also know of instances when you might need to break the rule.
What is parallel wording and why is it important?
Here are examples of sweeping generalities and what better alternatives are.
What is a split infinitive? Together, we'll re-write a handful of examples.
Test what you learned in section 2.
What is tone made of and how do you know what tone to use?
Don't curb your enthusiasm; let it show. Be careful of exceptions.
Re-write negative sentences so they are positive and keep the same meaning.
It is incumbent upon us to eschew archaisms. <--Example of how NOT to write.
You can write simply even about complex topics.
Here are example sentences that we'll rewrite together to make them more conversational.
This isn't an easy thing to do. We talk about dos and don'ts.
Together, we'll rewrite a letter that communicates criticism.
Test what you learned in section 3.
Being concise isn't easy. Here's a brief introduction.
Examples of words and phrases we can do without. We'll rewrite a handful of sentences.
Welcome to the Department of Redundancy Department. Welcome. <--How not to subject your readers to this.
We'll rewrite two dozen common, redundant phrases.
How to recognize pompous writing and what to do about it.
We'll see a dozen common pompous words and choose better substitutions.
Conversational writing should still be a little more formal than written speech.
When you hear a new word that people use in common conversation, should you use it in your writing?
What are some common clichés and why and how should you avoid them?
We'll rewrite about two dozen common clichés.
Exercise: together, we will rewrite some sentences to remove clichés.
Test what you learned in section 4.
Brief introduction to how not to be confused.
What's the difference between "well" and "good"?
When do you use "I" and when do you use "Me"?
When do you lie down and when do you lay down?
When do you use "who" and when do you use "whom"? Many people find this confusing!
What's the difference between "regardless" and "irregardless"?
The difference between "less" and "fewer" causes some of the greatest confusion, but it shouldn't.
"Its" and "It's" also causes a lot of confusion, but this lecture makes it clear and understandable.
"That" and "Which" aren't interchangeable. Here are some basic rules and a tip to help you out.
Some people pronounce these words almost the same, which adds to the confusion.
This is another pair of words that many people pronounce similarly.
You can learn the difference between these words from the movies.
Let's keep this lesson just between us.
The difference between these words is often a question of legality.
People often confuse these words in conversation, which isn't terrible. But in writing, you should be careful.
Here's another pair of words that people tend to pronounce the same, but the pronunciations should be slightly different.
Is this lecture implying something? Or maybe it's inferring something?
The word "proscribe" isn't common in conversation, but you're more likely to find it in formal documents.
Of all the words in this chapter, this might be the most confusing bunch.
The differences with these four words should be straightforward.
If only you knew!
This is where proofreading and rewriting are important.
Test what you learned in section 5.
What do you get out of punctuation?
Here are examples of how a small change in punctuation can make a sentence mean something completely different.
Use these comma techniques so nobody can misunderstand your writing.
Don't use commas everywhere. Here are instances when you shouldn't use them.
Test what you learned in section 6.
You want to take advantage of the news without gloating.
We'll look at example of what not to do, rewritten into what you can do.
Examples of technical writing are documentation or videos for how to use software, operate machinery or engage in a process.
Here are examples of naming conventions. You can use this for writing software manuals and videos, writing instructions for how to use a vacuum cleaner or just about any documentation.
When writing instructions for using software, here is what you should know about navigating the screen and interacting with mouse, finger or stylus.
There are some simple rules to follow, and you can sometimes break them if you know what you're doing.
When you're writing instructions for Windows, here are good techniques for how to show keyboard shortcuts.
When you're writing instructions for the Mac, here are good techniques for how to show keyboard shortcuts.
A navigation sequence is the step-by-step for using a mouse or other pointing device to interact with items under a tab or toolbar, or object on the screen.
It isn't easy to write instructions telling readers what to type. Follow the techniques in this video so your writing will be clear.
Test what you learned in section 8.
We'll introduce writing tools that are available to you. You probably have some on your computer, and some are available for free.
How to use the built-in thesaurus in Microsoft Word.
Google Docs also has a built-in thesaurus. Here's how to use it.
How to use a free, online dictionary.
What's another word for "thesaurus"? Use the free, online thesaurus to find out!
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Here's a free rhyming dictionary,
And it's just for you.
There are about a dozen built-in ways of taking screen captures on a Mac.
If you need to make screen captures on an iPhone, iPad, Android device or Microsoft Surface, here's how to to it.
You can also do screen captures on a Chromebook or Microsoft Lumia.
This is a list of all the techniques we discussed in this section to take screen captures.
Thank you for watching and I hope you found this course useful. If you have questions or comments, you can leave them on this page or contact me at the social media links in this video.
Special thanks to Will and Wendy Richardson.
Test what you learned in section 9.
Bob Flisser has been a trainer and technical writer since the 1980s. He currently has over a dozen video courses released by several commercial publishers, and was the co-author of a series of books of tips and shortcuts for Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Windows. He has also written magazine articles and training manuals, and created training centers for companies large and small.
Since 1995, Bob has been the vice president and the web and multimedia developer at Software School, Inc., a software training and graphic design company in New Jersey. He is also a board member of the Mediatech Foundation, which provides free technology access to his community.
Bob is a graduate of The George Washington University with a degree in financial economics and international business.