Written communication skills are highly regarded in the workplace because what you write not only reflects you, but also your organisation or team. In this article, Trina Jorre de St Jorre provides some practical tips for writing with impact.
What was the last thing that you wrote? Was it as impactful as it could have been?
Much like verbal communications, the aim of writing is to convey a clear and compelling message that is both informative and persuasive.
However, while a verbal conversation or oral presentation may only be heard once (unless they are recorded), written artefacts can become a permanent record of what was discussed or agreed to, making what you write – and how you write it – even more important.
The conventions associated with written artefacts vary, so the style, tone and format of what you write will be influenced by what you are writing and where you intend to publish it.
Regardless of whether you are writing an article, report, email or tweet – clear, concise and simple messages are often most effective.
Tips for writing with impact
1. Know your purpose
What are you trying to communicate and how would you like your audience to respond? Is your intention to inform, entertain, convince, motivate, sell, reassure or rebuke your audience? If this is not clear to you, it won’t be clear to your readers.
2. Know your audience
What is your audience likely to know already and what information will they need to understand your arguments or engage with your purpose? Make sure you use words and examples that your audience will understand and relate to.
3. Structure and prioritise your ideas
Structure your writing so that it is easy for your audience to understand your message and how they should respond. For long or complex articles, sign post your structure and intention early on to help readers keep track of your ideas. Clearly link your ideas so your audience doesn’t lose track, misunderstand or form different conclusions to what you intended. Always prioritise the ideas that are most important to your audience and purpose. This is especially important when writing for audiences who can be selective about what or how much they read.
4. Be clear and specific but don’t overwrite
Say what you mean in as few words as necessary for accuracy and clarity of understanding. Never use a long word when a short one will do. If it’s possible to cut out a word, do.
5. Make it personal
Writing is more engaging when it addresses the reader and has a clear author or speaker. Where possible (and appropriate) ask questions and use names or personal pronouns (eg I, we, you, me, us). Sometimes formality is necessary, but when it’s not, conversational language is generally more engaging. Active voice is more personal and powerful than passive voice (eg ‘I made a mistake’ not ‘a mistake was made’).
6. Revise and rewrite
Edit your work not only for spelling and grammar, but also for logic, readability and intention. Reading your work aloud, rather than in your head, can also help with identifying long or complicated sentences. Allowing time between drafts will also help you see your work with fresh eyes and identify weaknesses that are less obvious than when you’re initially writing them.
Reflect on the tips provided by Trina. Do these apply to the way you communicate in your workplace or profession?
In the comments, discuss what frustrates you most in written communication in your workplace or profession, and what advice you have for improvement.
© Deakin University