Mastering the Write Way: AEC Writing Basics with AP Style


Julee Attig, CPSM


Strong writing skills can help you rise above in your career, no matter what you do. You need to effectively communicate with colleagues, employees, and clients and to sell the ideas, services, and products your firm offers. Having finely honed writing skills can help you clearly and quickly write a firm bio, update a project writeup, craft a blog post, or delegate work for special projects without requiring additional time for clarification or questions. Content riddled with typos or confusing and improper grammar may cause co-workers to question your professionalism or a client question your firm’s attention to detail.


How to Improve Your Writing


It's clear that writing skills are important, but how do you improve? Taking college or post-college courses provides tools to improve your writing skills. It’s also helpful to pay careful attention to the writing you find effective and high quality. But just like any skill, practice makes perfect. A talented basketball player can’t sink free throw after free throw without hours of practice. Just as the athlete drills and practices different shots alone or with a team, so does a writer need to practice different techniques and skills to improve. Whether it’s simple journaling, reading, rewriting or editing, cutting out the distractions and practicing will improve your performance.


The Writing Process: From Drafting to Revision


When you open your laptop and begin to write it’s important to formulate ideas and organize thoughts. This will help you maintain clarity and focus. Making sentences short and clear and simplifying word choices will help you craft strong sentences and cogent paragraphs. Keep in mind you’re not going to get it right the first time. Or even the second or third. Good writing comes out of revision.


Read your first draft and clarify sentences. Organize loose structure until the words flow in a logical order. Then read your work aloud. This simple activity will reveal problems you probably haven’t noticed while staring at the screen. Long or run-on sentences and missing punctuation reveal themselves doing this simple exercise. You can also ask someone you trust to provide feedback on your work. Hearing the feedback can lead to new insights. Brainstorming ideas together can have an incredible effect on creativity and help you break through writer’s block and build momentum on your assignment.


The Role of Proofreading and Feedback


Proofreading is another key part of revision. You shouldn’t rely on a spell checker to catch errors. And while an AI-powered writing assistant can be a timesaver, its limited editing and revision capabilities may not effectively address grammar and punctation errors, inconsistency in tone, or structural flaws.


The Value of AP Style in AEC Writing


The importance of basic grammar and punctuation can’t be overstated. That’s why for over 50 years writers have turned to the Associated Press (AP) stylebook for best practices. While the style guide was originally sold as handbook for reporters, it should be your go-to for basic rules for grammar and punctuation. Unsure when to spell out numbers or where to place a comma or period within quotation marks? AP style dictates basic rules for spelling, abbreviations, capitalization, acronyms, numbers, citations, and more. While there are a handful of style guides you can choose from, the AP writing style is familiar because it’s the leading reference for a majority of public-facing communication. The guide is available digitally and in print and updates continuously to keep up with trends regarding word choices, usage, and jargon.


Ensuring Consistency Across Communications


Another reason why you should use a style guide is to help ensure your firm’s voice remains consistent no matter who is crafting content or where its audience reads it. Lack of consistency causes distractions and can make your firm look unprofessional. Content style guides ensure all writers on your marketing team maintain consistency regarding writing rules, tones, and more.


Practice Makes Perfect


Remember one point: you won’t master writing overnight. Effective writing is a skill that takes a lot of time and practice to develop. But once you get comfortable with it, you’ll possess an incredibly valuable job skill.


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About The Author

Julee Attig, CPSM

Julee Attig, CPSM, is an A/E/C marketing professional with 28 years of experience in proposal writing, marketing strategy, strategic planning, business development, event management and social media. As director of business development and marketing for VCBO Architecture, she helps teams develop sound marketing, pursuit, and proposal strategies. Colleagues know her as a dedicated, hard working and driven person.

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