Recently, a Florida Atlantic University business student interviewed me about writing. He was particularly interested in the amount and type of writing I do in my role as a Communication Director and Consultant. The exercise was helpful to me because it forced me to assess the amount of daily writing I do. I determined that I spend about 65% of my average workday writing and editing.
Business writing varies greatly from the likes of simple email messages to complex sales proposals, but the single constant in any type of written communication is that writing is a process. An organization’s attitude toward written communication and the process has a direct effect on how the organization is perceived.
Here are three tips to enhance your organization’s written communication:
Follow the Process
Whether communicating directly with coworkers or preparing copy for a major seminar, know that writing is a process that involves drafts, revisions, and proofreading. Nothing strikes a blow to credibility quite like a poorly communicated message.
When preparing longer pieces, it is best to begin with an outline. Get main points on paper, or computer, and begin by developing the core message, and then add evidence such as data, examples, and relevant metaphors to support each point. Opening and closing lines should be written after the main points have been fully developed. Finally, ice the cake with smooth transitions between the opening paragraph, the body and its key points, and the closing paragraph. Top it off with a descriptive yet provocative title, using as few words as possible.
Employ my 5 Cs of Effective Communication—Clear, Concise, Complete, Correct, Courteous. Avid readers will devour novels with rich character descriptions, but busy professionals want just the facts and all the facts. The messenger’s job is to gather pertinent information clearly and as concisely as possible to maintain engagement.
Leave out important information, provide false information, or present information in a shoddy fashion at the risk of irritating the recipient or losing a customer. Thus, the messenger would be wise to assemble a team to review the message for accuracy prior to distribution. Finally, assess the tone of the message to be sure it is courteous. Flies are attracted to honey, not vinegar.
Hire a Professional
Despite the fact that writing is involved in almost all forms of communication—even video, which often requires a script, storyboard, title, or captions—many organizations undervalue the role of a professional writer, opting instead to assign writing duties to staffers whose expertise lie elsewhere. “If you think hiring a professional is expensive, wait until you hire an amateur,” businessman and firefighter Red Adair.
Just as bad are executives who recognize the need for writing, hire a professional, and then fail to take the professional’s advice. Consider the famous Steve Jobs quote: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
Good written communication is as vital as ever in our digital world. It takes as much talent to clearly convey a complete message in a pithy social post as it does in a lengthy article.