Are you among those in your workplace who hate to write and know that when you do it will be an embarrassing effort? Perhaps it’s time to get over that.
If you improve your writing, you will be more respected by your colleagues and will be in a much better position to help address the communication issues that impact every aspect of your company’s business. Good writing habits bring clarity to the workplace.
With that in mind, here are 10 tips to improve your workplace writing.
- Get to the point immediately. You only have a matter of seconds to gain attention. Make sure that your subject line will grab the reader. Example: Problem Needing Your Attention.
- Keep it conversational. Write like you talk. If it’s important, read it aloud before you pass it on. If it sounds good, it will read just fine.
- Eliminate typos. Watch the grammar. If you’re not sure whether or not a word is spelled correctly, Google it.
- Be accurate. Make sure anything you write would pass a basic fact check. Your reader is counting on you.
- Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Ask yourself these questions: Is it clear? Will the recipient understand it? What do I need to change before I distribute this? It’s all about the reader and what he or she needs to know. It’s not about you.
- Be concise. Remember, less is more. Tell the other person what they need to know then stop. Rambling in any form of communication is not helpful.
- Include a date and page numbers in all documents. Absent those essentials — especially the date — nobody can be sure when something was written and which copy is up-to-date.
- Avoid redundancy. Yes, keep reinforcing important messages but do that in interesting ways by finding new words to express the same thought. What you want to avoid is sounding like a robot that uses the same words over and over again.
- Bring your subject to life by citing specific examples. Messages without examples are just empty words. If the message is, “We’re undertaking a new initiative,” then you might say, “Here specifically is what we’re doing.”
- Be careful of what you put in writing. Some things should never be put in writing. Ask for guidance when in doubt. Ask the boss. Ask the company lawyer. Ask somebody in a position to know or you may find yourself in a tough spot.
If you follow these 10 tips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a better workplace writer. And, when you reach that point, you’ll no longer fear sitting in front of a keyboard.
Davis Young and Scott Juba own Fast Is Good® LLC which offers communication training in 90 minutes or less.
Davis has provided communication training for some of the best known organizations in the country and, in recent years, has taught more than 200 college classes focused on communication.
Scott is an experienced communication trainer. He is a recognized thought leader and consultant on social media and the use of technology to communicate.
Material for this column is based on their book — Avoid Workplace Communication Screw-ups: They’ll Cost Money and Get You Fired! — published by Smart Business.