Everyone at Aspect writes something. Whether it’s a short memo to a property owner, a long report to a regulator, an email to a potential client, or a web story talking about writing. We generate a lot of words, and very few of them come easy. Yet, writing is crucial—for many reasons, but primarily because the quality of our words should match the quality of the science.
In a recent technical exchange, a panel of senior staffers shared their best practices for how we convey the conclusions and recommendations we form as a result of our scientific collaboration through our writing.
Our staff can be out in the field collecting and reviewing data, devising creative ways to approach and solve problems, and doing overall stellar work. But if we can’t clearly articulate what we did and why we did it, then all of our work can be lost in translation. Taking ideas, solidifying them into a sort of outline, and then turning to blank page to try and translate all of that into words in a clear, concise fashion can be an extremely daunting task.
Indeed, each panelist admitted that writing is hard work, especially when we hold ourselves to a high standard for delivering quality results. They shared how they approach a writing assignment and tackle challenges that come up along the way. The discussion sprung from four key questions:
- How do you start a new writing assignment?
- What do you look for in writing from your project team?
- What is the best advice about writing that you’ve received?
- What is your greatest personal writing challenge?
Over the course of our talk, we learned everyone has a different way of combating the fear and angst generated from a blank page. Some meticulously outline and then fill in section by section. Some dump any and all information that may be relevant and then carve out the document from the raw material. Some schedule themselves a block of time to write and stick to it. Some avoid it until the deadline looms near. Some know the conclusion and write their way back from it, some figure out the ending as they go along. We did find some common ground among us—we all feel a little lost at the very start of a project, and we all look to existing reports to guide the way.
We left with the knowledge that though there’s not a perfect tool or exact method for filling the page, knowing what your writing process is – i.e., what works for YOU—is the most important part of writing successfully. Developing a writing style and rhythm is an ever-evolving process.