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The Final Word by Helen Roush

Poor written communication skills can be a detriment to a business.  Whether you are in upper management or not, improving your written communication skills should be a focus. The reason being is that when you deliver your concepts, or orders, effectively, the recipient will have a better understanding of what you are relaying to them and the execution of a plan will be smoother.

Communication problems can lead to a waste of time and money. Have you ever sent or received an email that later had to be verbally explained? I am sure that we have all been there at one point or another. Alternatively, if said email was communicated effectively, no extra time would have been wasted on a verbal explanation. 

Improving your written communication skills is not that difficult to accomplish, and from the business standpoint, by improving your written communication skills, it will not only benefit you, but your co-workers, employees and upper management will benefit from the results.

While focusing on improving your written communication skills, here are a few thoughts to consider:

•    When preparing to write a message, consider why you are writing it, who you are writing it to, what you want the reader to understand, and the tone of your message. 

•    Your text should be written in such a way that the recipient will be able to understand what you are advising them or assigning them to do. If your message is unclear, this will only lead to confusion.  Has anyone ever dropped the ball because an assignment was unclear? Or perhaps the assignment was not executed as ordered because the message was misunderstood. Your tone is also important. You do not want to come off as being condescending or have someone think that your message is belittling to them. Your tone makes a big difference. You should always be courteous and professional, and your text should be devoid of discriminatory language. 

•    Whatever you are writing, make sure it is not overly long or repetitive with the same information throughout.

•    Do not contradict yourself. Not only will you lose credibility from doing so, it will lead to further confusion.

•    As you prepare to write, make sure your material is organized, make sure that your thoughts are collected. One suggestion is to have the main points you want to make outlined before you draft whatever you are writing. This will help you flow from point to point and will ensure that nothing was missed. If you are writing a letter, email, or memorandum, these should be in their correct respective formats. 

•    Considering the audience that you are writing to is crucial. If you take time to identify your audience, your message will be more effective. You should consider the expertise, education, background, and mindset of your audience, as well as the possible reactions to your message.

•    Proofread and edit your text, and please make sure you check for typos.  If your text is full of typos, you will not be taken as seriously as if your text was clean. Further, ask yourself how people would interpret receiving something from you that was full of errors.

•    Do not use flowery language, instead, keep the language simple, straightforward and to the point.  The use of “big words” adds nothing to your message.

Written communications may not always be on the forefront of our minds, but is very important in all aspects of day-to-day operations.

We will discuss more aspects of communications next time.

Helen Roush is Vice President, Communications Sciences at Paperitalo Publications. She can be reached by email at helen.roush@taii.com.


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