Improving written communication skills is easier than you think!14 Mar 2019
Knowing how to write well influences a lot in the business world. Everything from emails, reports, business cases and tenders rely on it. However, whether or not it’s because writing reminds us too much of English classes, many of us approach the task of writing with distaste. We often struggle with presenting information in a clear and professional manner. This doesn’t have to be the case.
Improving your written communication skills is a lot easier than you might think. You can greatly polish your writing using small and simple processes, making it much more effective and influential. Here are some powerful ways to develop your written communication skills.
Care about grammar, punctuation and spelling
Would you take someone seriously in business if they constantly talked in slang? How about if they tried to communicate in sentences that didn’t make sense? Even if you managed to understand what they were trying to say, it’s unlikely their language would build confidence or respect.
The same goes for your written communication. It’s important to care about grammar and spelling, because how you write reflects on you. Making this effort also shows that you have respect for the reader – carelessness suggests you don’t consider the other party worth the energy.
Even just the basics matter. Correct capitalisation and using a spell checker can greatly improve the quality of your written communication. This leads me onto my next point.
Take the time to proofread
At the barest minimum, read over what you’ve written at least once. Even this simple check can greatly enhance your writing.
However, for more important emails or documents like a business case, a closer look is necessary. Editing isn’t an easy task, but it’s well worth the effort. Here are a few tricks that you can use to polish your writing:
- Read what you’ve written out loud. This identifies sentences that don’t read well or wording you need to clarify.
- Work backwards. Editing from the bottom up removes the familiarity of the piece, so you’ll look at it with a fresh perspective.
- Shorten sentences. Long sentences often lose readers, so use them sparingly. A useful rule of thumb is to keep your sentences on average around 17 words and no more than 25 words.
- Simplify your language. Don’t get caught up in showing off your vocabulary. Straightforward language is the best way to get your message across. Especially when you work in a specialised area, not everyone will understand the terminology that you’re using. Therefore, use plain and easy to understand writing.
Know what you’re trying to say
I know someone with a particular method for writing emails. When she opens up a new message, she writes out exactly what she needs to communicate with the other party in short, sharp statements. Then, once all the essential information is noted down, she goes back and softens the email with greetings and explanations around the points.
The reason behind the method is simple. By stating the essentials before anything else, she clarifies what she’s trying to communicate with the other person and ensures all necessary information is present. Then she can structure and unpack the rest of the message.
Remember, written communication is about conveying information. Don’t miss the point you’re trying to make by talking around it – make it clear, concise and easily accessible to the reader.
Think about layout and outline
Just as tone and pace are important parts of verbal communication, how you lay out your writing impacts how it’s read.
Just as tone and pace are important parts of verbal communication, how you lay out your writing impacts how it’s read. Make it easy on the eye. Although a large block of heavy text is daunting, break it up into smaller and well-spaced paragraphs for an easy read.
Along with this, consider the outline of your piece. How you structure your writing helps people read it and understand your message. A great tool here is AIDA – an acronym standing for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Lay out your message in this order to help hook your reader.
Make sure there’s a clear point behind every paragraph. If there’s no takeaway, either delete the section or clarify your message. Either way, avoid unnecessary words as they cloud what you’re trying to say.
If you’d like help improving written communication skills within your workplace, contact ICML today.