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The Power of the Written Word

Communication is so valuable and written communication is the artifact and record of a good process.  Writing is becoming a lost art for the common person.  Go back 150 years and read the articulate correspondence of common farmers who had become enlisted men in the American Civil War.  They are eloquent and full of great words and phrases.  Here is an example. [1] (From a Southern soldiers perspective – not from my family history – just a good example of writing)

Writing today in a business environment should not be compared to such letters, but still requires a bit of finesse in order to communicate well.

Here are a few tips for good emails and memos.

Get to the point

Just like in speaking – get the message across at the beginning.  People will not read a long email or memo.  they will skim it for clues and directives to see if they need to read the whole thing.  If you fail to get your point across in the first paragraph, you may never get them to read more.

Get Organized

Don’t just rattle off an email or memo as the words come to mind.  Figure out a beginning, middle and end.  Choose the order of your written word carefully.  Help the flow of the readers thoughts carry along with the writing.

Write like you speak

Most people write a little loftier than they speak.  Don’t get too far from your typical tone. If you inject humor in your speech, then don’t be afraid to add some to your writing (if the topic allows).  Writing should flow similar to speech.  Not to formal and not to casual.  Don’t use “gonna” or “ain’t” – but keep from getting too formal.

Avoid Fluff

Don’t add information or stories that are not germane to the conversation.  Remove needless sentences that do not advance understanding.

Don’t assume they know anything

Unless it is obvious to all.  Check to see if you have fully explained yourself as if you knew nothing of the subject before.  Quickly explain terms or processes that are not common knowledge.  Remind them of things discussed before.  Give them anchors to start their thinking by referring to other memos or documents.

Remember the reader

Don’t talk down to the readers or over their heads.  Do not use too much “tech talk” if the audience will not understand it.  Focus on what the reader needs to know and present it in easy to understand terms.  Avoid jargon and acronyms.

Read it when you are done

Don’t just hit the send key or the print button.  Stop – take a break – then come back and read it again.  Make changes as needed.  If it is a memo – get someone else to read it and offer comments.  If it is a tutorial or procedure – get someone to try it out, step by step, then send it out.

Lastly – Don’t assume that they read it

If it is critical that one or two people know exactly what is in the memo or email, follow up with a conversation.

Using some of these tips might help clarify your points.  Improving your skills at writing can advance your career.

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2 Comments (Open | Close)

2 Comments To "The Power of the Written Word"

#1 Comment By Jennifer On July 29, 2010 @ 6:13 AM

Don’t forget proofreading. If it’s an important document, let someone else proofread it for you. They may catch something you don’t. And don’t rely on spell check to catch all of your mistakes. I found three errors in this post alone. You use correspondents when the proper word is correspondence and improperly punctuated the word “don’t” twice.
I know no one likes the “grammar police” but, if you want to be taken seriously, your spelling and grammar need to be perfect.

#2 Comment By CADDManager On July 29, 2010 @ 2:32 PM


Thanks for the catch…

I went back and fixed it. I think automatic spell checkers have made me even worse. I think that the spelling is correct because it shows no errors. Spell check did not find the “don;t” errors and since “correspondents” is a word – it ran right past it.