If you want to improve your writing, learn to be more precise in your description. In email messages, policy memos, or feature stories, your goal is to be exact.

Readers do not want a general notion of what you mean. At a minimum, ambiguity dulls writing by making it bland and uninteresting. Additionally, it often forces people to send follow-up email notes and leave voice messages asking for clarification, which is annoying.

To be more descriptive, reach for a thesaurus to find a synonym that might be more specific, and use a dictionary to check for shades of meaning, so that you know you have exactly the word that fits. You also can go the extra step and build a vocabulary file, a simple Word document where you put in words, their definitions, and useful synonyms. Then go back and look at the list periodically so that you commit words to memory.

If you write feature stories for your company’s intranet or for an employee newsletter or magazine, learn to be more descriptive by improving your observation skills. Take a notebook (a laptop or a real paper notebook), sit in the corner of the cafeteria or a coffee shop, and write down every single detail you can see or hear. Describe the room, the people, their clothing, the menu, the conversations you overhear. Then write a few paragraphs describing your observations.

Good writing is built on precision, because you give your reader an unmistakable image or interpretation of what you are saying. Too often, we leave readers scratching their heads because we are not careful enough about the words we choose.