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Three Ways To Improve Your Written Communication
Wed 24th August 2011
Know your reader and your medium
Before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, you need to have an awareness of both audience and the medium you'll use. If you work in a customer complaints department, for example, a letter is far more authoritative then just sending an apologetic email. Also, some of the older generation only really regards letters as the only medium for written communication too - with a letterhead and a real signature, instead of something electronically produced.
E-mail is becoming more prevalent in the office for many aspects of business, but sometimes it won't do - perhaps you have to lay off an employee due to redundancy. There is a famous example of staff being fired via SMS, which is probably the worst way to go about it! Anything that needs an official look or message should really be the arena of traditional pen and paper. However, this also ties in to knowing your audience - a teenager, for example, will happily accept an email in place of a letter and is probably more likely to reply to it rather than write back.
Keep it concise yet don't miss information out
There are two evils in written communication - saying too much and saying too little. The best option is a halfway house between the two - be concise, but not so short as to be brusque, and retain all the salient information. If, for example, you're chairing a meeting and are sending an invite out, then give out all the information that an attendee may need, but don't start a written discussion on paper about the agenda - save that for the meeting itself. The same depends on giving information in a report to your boss, for example. Only include the facts, don't add anything subjective or opinionated that may skew the essential message that is being given.
Spelling and grammar
This is the absolute must in written communication - a spelling or grammar error (or even an unintentional one such as a typo) can detract from the content and make you look unprofessional and uneducated. Spell checks are in email programs, word processors and many other area of life for a reason - and if you can't get access to one (for example, if you ever had to do a handwritten letter) then there's always a dictionary. Accuracy equals professionalism in the world of written communication, and not paying attention to it will never look good.
Remember, you can take communication courses that will also enhance the way you write as well as the way you speak. There are also plenty of tips online on how to improve the way you communicate at work, and to whom. If English has never been your strong point, checking which words or phrases you usually get wrong - and relearning according to corrections - will always stand you in good stead for a better professional future.
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