Utilize Writing Skills to Communicate

      The importance of writing clearly and persuasively has not diminished with time or with advances in communication technology. In fact, effective writing maximizes the use of all business communication methods – faxes, teleconferencing, voice mail, E-mail, multimedia, text messaging– all the latest communication innovations.

     International business makes it necessary to communicate with people in widely separated locations, and writing is often the best method for getting the message across. While face-to-face conversation is generally the most effective way to communicate, for some communication needs, writing is the method of choice.

     Written communication often substitutes when the situation prevents personal contact. But at other times writing is even more effective than spoken words. When do you “put it in writing?”

      • To save time – Writing saves time by reducing the need for time-consuming meetings. A memo directed to several people provides information that can be read much more quickly than those people could be gathered for a meeting. Writing also saves time when you use it to tell people ahead of time what will be done at a meeting and what each person is responsible for preparing before the meeting.

     E-mail communication is ideal for this purpose. Meeting agendas can be attached to the e-mail and auto-replies can be generated to show receipt of a message. If the meeting is mandatory, a paper memo can be sent to reinforce the importance of attendance, but in today’s electronic savvy world, most people will have already entered the meeting date on their electronic calendar to alert them of the impending meeting.

     When you find yourself writing similar letters or memos to different people over time, keep copies of paragraphs you use frequently. With slight modification, you can use them again – and save time that can be invested in other important work. One word of caution: Using standard paragraphs allows you to save time and to use effective, clear wording many times for maximum benefit; yet you must be careful to re-read and evaluate the wording for each situation. Modifying and rearranging standard wording adds the personal touch necessary to communicate effectively in this high-tech age.

     • To crystallize thought – Writing crystallizes thought and crystallized thought motivates action. When you put your ideas in writing, you refine them. Seeing ideas in “black and white” allows you to throw out the bad and develop the good. You create the opportunity to see any flaws and strengthen your message through choosing just the right words to elicit the results you desire. Putting your ideas into writing helps you have concise, coherent conversations with people, and prepares you for writing effective correspondence.

     • To remind– Written plans of action serve as a reminder of what needs to be done, who isresponsible, and when the action should be completed. People quickly and easily forget the content of verbal communication, but written communication provides a lasting record of agreements and decisions. Putting something in writing tends to make it more “official” and is a tangible reminder. A written plan facilitates “getting things done;” accountability, recorded in writing, always increases productivity.

     • To prevent misunderstanding– Putting important information in writing avoids misunderstandings. People can read and re-read directions or instructions or important information when it is at their fingertips in “black and white.” After important conversations or meetings on important policies and procedures, always recap in writing what was decided

     After you consider the reaction of the person receiving your communication, you may conclude that writing your message is not the best way to ensure the desired reception of your message; a face-to-face conversation may be better. Experience seems to emphasize that bad news or reprimands or efforts to discipline should be hand delivered, or dealt with in person. The nature of the news or reprimand, the personality of the prospective recipient, the relationship between you and that recipient, and various other factors need to be considered in making this decision. Reviewing the goal of communication may help you make the right decision.

     Just remember that written words stay on paper much longer than spoken words hang in the air. Carelessly written messages – especially ones containing sensitive information – may return to haunt you and your career. When writing from a disciplinary or authoritative position, give the project the necessary planning and careful attention it deserves.

Leadership Management Institute
Reprinted with permission
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