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How to Write Effectively


Even with the growth of technology, writing may be the most critical basic skill we can have. Communicating by e-mail requires writing skills. With e-mail, you don't have the help of voice, tone or body language to help convey your meaning. You have to rely on the proper use of all the elements that go into writing -- composition, organization, style, wording, grammar, and spelling -- to get your message across.

Writing is a complex activity. It involves communicating a set of mentally formed ideas to another person. The goal is to be understood and to have the person receiving your written message take appropriate action.

Written communication requires the use of a system of structured symbols through the manipulation of writing instruments such as pens, pencils, brushes, typewriters and computers. The physical act of writing calls for eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity. In addition to the words used in the message, the appearance of the written material will affect how the reader interprets its content and meaning.

As the world of work moves swiftly towards becoming a knowledge-based information economy, effective writing skills become more and more important. No matter what career you choose, you will have to fill out forms, write applications, resumes and cover letters, prepare and present reports, write instructions, prepare proposals and memoranda to sell and convince potential clients and customers, and prepare correspondence to deal with all facets of private and business life.

You may also choose to write for fun. Letters to your friends, family, politicians, newspaper editors and assorted kindred spirits will bring satisfaction and pleasure. Writing your thoughts in a personal journal to explore your inner life may bring new insights. You may even find writing is your favorite form of expressing yourself.

In this article we will not address the usual topics of how to write well for a particular purpose or audience. We will not consider the mechanics of grammar, punctuation or spelling. Instead, we will concentrate on developing specific techniques for generating new and creative ideas for any type of writing you might want to do.

Learning Goals

At the completion of all of the segments of this Building Skills article, you should be able to:

  • discuss the two main phases in writing
  • list the five primary stages in writing
  • describe clustering and mind mapping for generating writing ideas
  • complete a mind map and action plan
  • complete a cluster and short essay
  • use the provided Internet links to get additional information on clustering and mind mapping


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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.