Improving your writing as a mystery shopper

While being a mystery shopper doesn't automatically make you a professional writer, your writing skills should not be amateur.

While being a mystery shopper doesn't automatically make you a professional writer, your writing skills should not be amateur. Strong writing is required for reports and communicating with schedulers, clients and your mystery shopping company. Here are a few tools and tips that will help you improve your writing skills today:

Be concise
It's easy to get a bit verbose when composing your first few reports. You want the client to know you did thorough research, observation and note-taking. However, too many words can confuse the reader. Remarkable Communication noted that run-on sentences can jumble the reader's thoughts. Therefore, it's important to focus on one thought or idea per sentence. The same concept applies to paragraphs.

Take a look at the shop guidelines to see if there is a word limit or minimum for the report. It's imperative that you stay within that range. Remember, abbreviating words is not a good idea. Be concise, not informal.

Embrace outlines
If you've just completed a difficult, complicated shop, it may require a lengthier, more in-depth report. This can be daunting. Don't let it overwhelm you! Create an outline that will help you organize your thoughts and notes into a cohesive piece. Look at the report guidelines to identify the key topics you must touch upon. Review your notes and find out where each segment fits into the report. By the time the outline is complete, writing the report will be a piece of cake.

Use an active voice
An active voice makes the report more concise and informative. Active writing is straightforward and engaging, whereas the passive voice takes longer to get to the point of the sentence. Take a look at the example below:

  • Passive: The menu presentation was given by the server.
  • Active: The server gave the menu presentation.

The active voice gives more power to the server and makes report writing more economical and professional.

Read out loud
When in doubt over whether a sentence or thought reads well, speak it out loud. The Fast Track stated that hearing your own voice say the sentences you wrote will immediately help you identify what needs work. This will also help you identify places where you've used jargon or unprofessional phrasing.

Be consistent
Depending on the rules your mystery shopping company or the client have laid out for you, it might be a good idea to invest in a copy of the Associated Press Stylebook. This will be your go-to resource to check grammar and unusual spellings. The important thing is that you remain consistent throughout your writing. The same grammar rules should apply to every sentence.

Write, then leave it alone
Revision is a huge aspect of professional writing. Going back over a piece of writing to make changes and clean up phrases is what distinguishes strong work from weak work. After completing a report, leave it alone for an hour or so. Then, when you come back with fresh eyes, you'll catch little things here and there that you can improve.

Don't stress
Some shops will require you to write a complete report in a very short amount of time. This kind of pressure tends to have a negative effect on some people; they panic and writer's block immediately sets in. Rather than letting this type of stress get the best of you, just start writing. Open a brand new Word document and start writing everything you recall about the shop, how you felt during the process and what parts stood out. Chances are you'll be surprised at the details that start flowing back. Once you find a rhythm and complete this first draft, go back and make the grammatical, spelling and organizational changes you need to in order to send it in. Or, simply use this as an exercise and begin writing the official report afterwards.