Your guide to improving written communication

In today's world, written communication is a vital skill required for most business roles. Misunderstandings due to unclear written communication can lead to performance issues and poor relationships. Therefore, being mindful of what and how you write is essential. Learning the nuances of effective written communication can help you build better workplace relationships and improve organizational transparency. 

What is written communication?

Written communication is any written message between two or more people. Modern business communications can use various methods, such as email or texting. While written communication may include the same information you'd convey in an in-person meeting, you may not always successfully convey the same meaning. Without tone and body language, the recipient of a written message can only rely on words (which can give rise to misunderstandings). Whether communicating by Slack or on company letterhead, carefully crafting your message is essential. 

What is written communication best for?

Written communication is ideal for many business situations: company-wide information distribution, short scheduling messages, personalized letters, and more. 

In the digital age, written communication tracks and backs up any situations needing follow-ups. It might seem tedious. However, once written and delivered, the proof is there. Written communication is excellent for providing a clear record of agreements and decisions, essential for legal and compliance purposes. Furthermore, it facilitates asynchronous communication, allowing people to respond at their own pace and keep a coherent conversation going. 

The importance of written communication

You can refer to written communication multiple times for sharing, clarification, and education. The permanence of written communication makes it ideal for instructions, processes, rules, safety requirements, and educational materials. In today's increasingly interconnected world, written communication is a convenient way to send a carefully transcribed message to countless people at the speed of light. The convenience of written communication makes it one of the most valuable forms of communication. This type of communication also heightens accountability for those sending information.

Types of written communication

While you can craft many types of business messages, they fall into four basic categories:

Formal written communication has been integral to business communication for a long time. It is commonly used in the workplace to share important company information via emails, memos, reports, official documents, records, and paper letters. Formal writing might address employees, customers, suppliers, or business partners. Having another person read your draft before sending it out is always a good idea, as getting another perspective can be helpful.

Informal communication uses a relaxed tone to share information in a relatable manner. Informal communications are more likely to be delivered via text messages, social media posts, and personal letters. Not all business communications call for formality. 

Academic writing shares knowledge. It includes research papers, essays, presentations, and articles. Source materials are generally cited or included in academic writing. 

Creative writing is typically imaginative and includes descriptive language and personal flair. Creative writing includes poetry, short stories, and novels. Often overlooked in business, creative writing is the backbone of storytelling, an effective way to improve engagement in business settings. 

5 ways to improve your written communications

These tips can help you deliver well-crafted messages that serve their intended purpose. 

Plan ahead

A well-planned message helps you make your point instead of getting lost in the words. Before crafting any type of written communication, identify your objective and describe it clearly. What do you want the recipient to do or take action on? Once you've defined your purpose, organize your message so it's easy to follow. If you offer some feedback in writing, share positive observations before the input. This balance helps with the delivery. While elements like humor and pleasantries might be acceptable, ensure they don't hinder a clear message. 

Improve readability with bullets and numbers

Whether on a screen or paper, white space, and formatting changes make it easy for readers to note what's important quickly. Break up content with bolded phrases, headings, bullets, and numbered lists as needed for improved readability. Use short paragraphs when possible and leave spaces between paragraphs for added emphasis—this is a great way to write social media posts. The reader can go from sentence to sentence without getting lost in multiple paragraphs.

Use short sentences

If you're a fan of acronyms, you're probably familiar with TL;DR (too long; didn't read it). Keep business communications precise, avoiding complex words and long sentences. Use a formal but clear tone, and avoid jargon or vague language. Focus on clarity to ensure your message is readily understood.

Be precise

Whether you're sending a text or writing an official business memorandum, using precise words and phrases to clarify your meaning is essential. For example, a text saying "Copy paper is getting low" doesn't convey the same message as "I need you to order copy paper today." You can’t assume your recipient will know what to do next. 

Use the active voice 

Using the active voice in your writing makes it clear and easier to understand. Instead of being vague, active sentences are direct and to the point. They focus on who is doing the action, which helps readers follow along without confusion. For instance, instead of saying, "The report was completed by the team," you could say, "The team completed the report."  See how much more straightforward that is?

Keep learning more about effective communication. Read How our elders tell the best stories and what you can learn from them.

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