2004_07_ask_writing.jpgWriting has never been my forte, but I have been asked to begin writing proposals for work in order to move into upper management. After a few failed attempts to produce this type of material, I fear that I will not be asked again - and I will have to stay in my current position instead of being promoted. Can you give me some tips on how to improve my writing skills?

Some people have a natural feel for constructing sentences, spelling things correctly, and using proper punctuation. But for those who don't know a semi-colon from a comma, help is available.

You might want to start by having some standard reference books on hand to help you with spelling, word choice, sentence construction, and grammar. Get a copy of a dictionary, a thesaurus, the Chicago Manual of Style and Strunk and White's Elements of Style.

Will your employer pay for you to take work-related classes? There are numerous continuing education classes that can help you develop your writing skills. The New School , NYU, and Columbia all have continuing education programs where you can take writing courses. Request a course bulletin for the fall, and you can enroll in a writing class that suits your needs, such as business writing, fundamentals of writing, and so on.

There are also resources online that can help you hone your proposal-writing skills. We’re not sure exactly what type of proposal you have in mind, but the Foundation Center has an online proposal writing short course that may be helpful to you. Their website has lots of resources, and they also offer classes at their New York City location near Union Square.

Last but not least, perhaps there is a colleague or supervisor at work who can review your writing, edit it, and give you constructive criticism and tips on improving your writing skills. Maybe he or she can mentor you in this area and give you some more strategies to improve your professional writing.