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UpWrite Press understands the importance of writing skills in business: We're business people just like you. On this blog you'll find tips to improve your writing, along with topics of interest to our staff.

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    Puzzled Expression

    Friday, September 19, 2014
    Summertime means puzzle time

    Do you like puzzles? Here are three I've faced. (The third involves writing.)

    Outside the Cube

    Years ago, someone gave me a Rubik’s Cube. I mixed it all up, then set about trying to solve it. Eventually, frustrated, I turned the top level about 10 degrees, pried out the middle piece on one edge, disassembled the whole thing, and put it all back together in proper order. Puzzle solved.

    Hold the Phone

    This afternoon, I got a call on my cell phone from an unknown number. Whoever it was rang once and hung up. I did a quick reverse lookup online and learned it’s a spammer. Spammers don’t pay attention to the national “Do Not Call” registry, and my phone service doesn’t support blocking numbers. Which left me with a puzzle: How can I avoid receiving calls from this number?

    My solution was to add a “Spam” contact in my phone’s directory, then set that contact to go straight to voicemail. Spammers and bots generally hang up without leaving a message, so from now on I’ll never even know they call. Puzzle solved.  

    Write Approach

    Writing is simply another type of puzzle—sort of a cross between jigsaw and scavenger hunt. In your mind is an image—however sharp or blurry—of the result you hope to achieve. Laid out before you are a world of pieces that might fit: facts, ideas, opinions, examples. Your job is to sort out the ones you need in this picture from all the rest, then fit them together logically, clearly, and smoothly for other people to view.

    Think about that jigsaw metaphor for a moment.

    • In business writing, you typically have a form to follow. That’s something like the edge pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. They outline the contents. Your understanding of topic, purpose, and audience also helps to shape that frame.
    • As you locate pieces that fit together, the picture starts to become clearer in your own mind. When writing, as you learn more about your topic and goals, your purpose comes clearer. In turn, this helps you to identify more pieces.
    • It’s obvious when pieces are still missing from a jigsaw puzzle. In writing, those gaps may not be as immediately evident, but with practice you can spot them. Look for unsupported assumptions, leaps of logic, and imprecise wording. Ask a colleague to read and react. Don’t just gloss over gaps; those missing pieces draw attention away from the overall picture.

    Approach writing as a puzzle—rather than, say, a race or an endurance test—and the process will go much more smoothly and successfully. Puzzle solved.

    —Lester Smith