Let’s not kid ourselves: The truth is that it is very difficult for the average person to come up with the words that they want to say to someone when they are sitting at a computer, typing away. Usually, the person attempting the writing will either make it more formal than is really called for in all but the most academic of writing or simply struggle so much with spelling and grammar rules that the resulting piece is riddled with typos and difficult to follow. These are two very different problems, but my goal is for this post to offer one good approach for solving each problem.
Too Formal? Grab a Tape Recorder
This is an exercise that works really well for most people. If you know what points you want to convey to your audience, and you have a rough idea of what you would say to someone if you were to just explain the concept that you are trying to write about, the best thing for you to do may be to leave your computer for a little while. Grab a tape recorder and start explaining to it whatever it is you’re trying to write about. If it helps, preface the entire monologue with “I don’t know how to write this, but I know how to say it.” If you have the equipment to do so, you could instead grab a computer microphone and open up a voice recording program on your computer. By taking writing out of the equation and just “rambling,” you can get a lot of raw material out, and it’s always easier to create a piece of writing when you already have all of the pieces in front of you. Once you’re done, you can play back the recording and type it into a document verbatim, then play with the specific wordings and organization until you have the result you want. This approach will typically result in a less formal-sounding, but still professional, document.
Grammar Woes? Draft Anyway, then Have Someone Else Proofread
Here’s the beautiful thing about writing: Nobody sees what you’ve written until you say so. It’s okay, therefore, for your first draft to be a total mess in the grammar and spelling department. If you understand what you’ve written after you’ve written it, a good proofreader will understand it. They might cringe at it, but they’ll understand it. And then they’ll fix it. Remember: A proofreader is going to be checking for usage and grammar as well as spelling. Therefore, simply running a spell checker in your document isn’t going to catch and correct everything that a proofreader can.