Writing Tips


Three Tips for Effective Written Communication

In today's environment of Twitter and texting, quality technical and scientific writing has begun to fade. While a lack of quality may be acceptable in the social media arena, it's unacceptable and often embarrassing in the workplace. These three tips can help you improve your written communication skills.

Edit and Proofread with Coworkers 

Often, a writer tends to make the same mistakes repeatedly. That writer may never see the mistake in their communications, but will immediately see it in another person’s writing, which, in turn, can help them stop making the mistake. One way to do this is to have one person read aloud while the other reads along; reading out loud will help you hear mistakes. Another technique is to read the document from the back to the front, as this allows you to see the document with fresh eyes. In addition, when you read the document backwards, the document should make just as much sense back to front as it does front to back. We often recommend that organizations form weekly writing groups where writers get together, discuss their writing and edit one another's writing.

Organize Your Thoughts before Writing

Write an outline, jot notes, or use an online tool such as yWriter, but be sure to focus before you take to the keyboard. A cluttered mind on a busy day can lead to confusing information presented poorly. The simple act of writing an outline or doing some freewriting can focus you and your writing and help you organize your thoughts and may even relieve some of the stress of the day by forcing you to slow your pace and think carefully and critically. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethesaid, ''If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts.''

Clearly State the Purpose of the Email, Then Deliver

State your intent clearly in subject line of an email, as doing so allows the reader to quickly and easily understand several things: the importance of the email, what the email is about, even the action that’s required by the reader.  Doing this can help create goodwill on the part of the reader; that is, because you’ve helped the reader do his/her job more effectively, s/he may be more inclined to open the email, read it, and complete the required action. In addition, the reader may be more likely to read other emails from you. Remember that readers expect emails to be brief, so deliver your message quickly and concisely. Experts suggest that many readers lose focus within about eight seconds, leading them to leave a document that doesn’t deliver the promised information or that is simply too difficult for them to find the information they’re looking for.

In the fast-paced world of business and science, clear written communication is key.