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Writing can boost your career (or not)

I recently took part in an IIBA® Effective Communications Webinar on how business analysts can improve their writing skills to help further their careers. Here’s the advice I offered:

Read good stuff

Devour the writing of those who know what they’re doing. Read the Harvard Business Review, The Economist and masters such as William Zinsser (On Writing Well).

Read and re-read the output from colleagues whose writing you admire. Take apart one of their reports or user stories that hits the mark. How did it start? Did the writer break it up into sections? How did the writer keep your interest? Was it easy to read and why?

Build profiles of your readers

You don’t write in a vacuum. Always think of your readers’ needs.

How much time do they have to read your document?
Are you assuming knowledge they don’t have (a common mistake when writing to senior executives who don’t know every detail of every project)?
Are you giving them the targeted information they need or an encyclopedia to showcase your expertise?

Start with a purpose statement (for your eyes only)

Purpose statements keep you focused on the issue and away from tangents

This report aims to . . .
This email outlines . . .
This user story illustrates .

Hold that ego

If you don’t think your writing needs improvement at all, as one caller did who resented any changes to her copy, take a breath and:

Remember that a few changes can look like a lot, especially in the dreaded Track Changes.
Carefully examine what has been altered and ask the editor why. Explain that you’re trying to improve.
Consider that the changes might be an improvement. Or that your ego might be speaking louder than your common sense.

GPS (Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling) Tips

In response to reader requests this column will occasionally include hints on grammar, punctuation and spelling (GPS)

Its and it’s are commonly confused.

Its is always possessive (Its colour was blue).

It’s is a contraction for it is (It’s raining today).

Its’ is always wrong.


Patricia Davies is an award-winning writer and editor, an Endorsed Education Provider (EEP™) with IIBA®, and a regular panelist on the IIBA “Being a BA: Effective Communication” Webinar. Do you have a writing question? Please email to and we’ll try to address it in a future column or Webinar.