Because you, like most people, write every day, to some extent, it’s not always easy to realize that you need to improve your written communication skills. Effective written communication is a skill that is learned over time, and one that requires you to organize your thoughts effectively in order to convey your message properly.
If you’re looking to improve your writing skills, this blog post is for you. In this article, we’re going to cover why written communication is a common challenge along with a wide range of best practices so that whether you’re sending an email or writing a formal proposal, you feel confident communicating effectively, every single time.
Why is written communication a common challenge?
Written communication is a common issue, with many common mistakes, no matter which industry you’re working in. The reason why business writing is especially challenging is because unlike when we speak in person, there’s no such thing as non-verbal cues, tone of voice, or the ability to clarify what you meant right away. Unlike dialogue, a written word only communicates its literal meaning. This means that when you write, you need to really think about if your message is appropriate, has the right tone, and delivers your message effectively. Moreover, sometimes the quality of written communication at work can be a challenge because of time restraints. Often, we’re in a rush and shoot off an email without reading it over or thinking twice. While it seems like a good idea at the time, this is not an effective way to write.
8 best practices to improve written communication
- Think about the purpose of your message
- Put yourself in your reader’s shoes
- Keep it simple
- Keep a place to jot down thoughts and ideas
- Write and read often
- Edit fiercely and read the message out loud
- Ask for help
- Constructive criticism as growth
1 Think about the purpose of your message
Firstly, the message that you’re writing needs to be written with a purpose in mind. What is the message that you’re trying to convey? What is the most effective way that you can convey it? In order to answer these questions, it’s important that you organize your thoughts beforehand and think about the audience that will be receiving the message. The purpose of the communication should be central to the message, clear and obvious. Start with the main goal or purpose of the message so that you can then create an appropriate introduction and conclusion to the message, leaving the most important part in the center.
2 Put yourself in your reader’s shoes
It’s really important to put yourself in your reader’s shoes. Here, think about what kind of background information they have on the topic, as they may need some additional information to paint the picture properly. By putting yourself in the reader’s shoes, you should also think about what kind of audience you are working with, so that you can use the appropriate tone and formalities, where necessary. Reading your writing and pretending that you are the reader will help you edit your message so that it is easier to read and better understood.
3 Keep it simple
A lot of people believe that writing with fancy words, in poetically written sentences makes their message seem more intelligent. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Disguising a simple message with a ton of jargon is really ineffective because it takes away from the key message that you’re trying to deliver. This point also starts with thinking about the purpose of the message and then attempting to write it in as few words as possible. A tactic for keeping your messages simple is beginning with bullet points or key points. From there, think about which points are absolutely necessary for your message to be successful and delete the rest. Then, you can start making those bullet points into concise sentences.
4 Keep a place to jot down thoughts and ideas
It’s a great idea to keep a place where you can jot down any thoughts and ideas that you have as you go about your workday. This way, when the time comes to write something, you can go through your notes to see if you’ve written down anything that relates to the topic and purpose of the message. This is going to add value to the message because it adds more context and more background information. Knowing that you can pull from your notes is going to improve your writing skills as well as your confidence in your writing abilities. Don’t forget to take some time to actually organize your notes once in a while so that you can remember what’s where.
Use a meeting management tool like Fellow as a digital notepad that you can use to seamlessly jot down ideas that pop into your head throughout the day!
5 Write and read often
Reading and writing to improve your writing skills is simply practicing the craft. Like any other skill that you’d like to acquire or improve, it’s important that you practice your writing and find ways of doing this that resonate and feel good for you. This includes everyday practices, such as taking notes at every meeting that you attend, keeping a personal journal or a written agenda, reading for leisure and also reading blog posts or articles, which can help in enriching your professional knowledge. This practice is going to help you start writing with more ease.
6 Edit fiercely and read the message out loud
There’s no such thing as editing too much when it comes to writing effectively and communicating to be impactful. Start with your rough notes or bullet points, then take some time to organize your thoughts. After you’ve written your message, edit your piece of writing for readability, tone, grammar, punctuality and fluidity. It’s important to ensure that the purpose of the message is crystal clear. Once you’re happy with the content of your communication, read through and edit at least another three or four times. Once you think you’ve got yourself a final draft, don’t forget to read your message out loud, so that you get a sense of how the message will read to others.
7 Ask for help
If you feel like your writing could use some improvement, don’t be afraid to ask for some help. Like anything else that you’re trying to improve, written communication skills take both time and effort to develop. Don’t be discouraged, don’t be embarrassed, and definitely don’t despair because as you continue to practice your reading and writing you’ll be sure to notice that written communication becomes easier and more enjoyable for you. Like any other skill at work, your manager will be more than willing to guide you in improving your writing. A great way to start is by asking a colleague or a manager to proofread your messages- especially the ones that hold a little more importance! It’s very possible that down the line, a colleague may ask you to help them in improving their writing- It all comes full circle!
8 See constructive criticism as an opportunity to grow
If you’re receiving constructive feedback about your writing, it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad writer and it definitely doesn’t mean that you’re bad at your job. Try not to take it too personally! Any constructive criticism or feedback you receive is only meant to help you and to contribute to your learning and professional growth. Take the feedback as an opportunity to learn and try to really implement the comments that you receive, to see if it can make a difference. Ultimately, this feedback is going to make your job easier and more enjoyable for you.
If you want to improve your written communication skills, there are many ways to do so. Try a few of these best practices to see which ones are the most effective for you. As you continue to practice, you’ll develop more confidence and a unique writing style. Effective written communication takes both time and effort, as it’s a skill that is learned and developed over time. As you continue to write every day and apply some of these best practices, you’ll notice that writing will not only become much easier for you, but it will also become much more enjoyable!