A client recently requested help in deciphering an email message that she received from a person with whom she was doing business. After reading the email several times, I’m still uncertain what message the sender was trying to convey. The thought was muddled, the sentence unclear and confusing.
That led me to thinking about writing in business. There have been a lot of changes over time but one thing that has not changed, is the importance to communicate through the written word. The ability to write clearly and concisely is a skill that takes time to develop, but pays off in the long run. How many times have you received a two-paragraph email where something written leaves you befuddled, or the 7-page rant when the balance of the message can be summarized in 25 words?
Writing does not have to be difficult. You need to know what the message is that you’re trying to convey and use the best language to deliver that message. Whether it’s a 100-word email or a 2,000-word magazine manuscript, organization is essential.
After organization, the next critical part of writing that many people overlook is editing. Even in a short email, take time to ponder everything. Word choice. Sentence structure. Paragraphs. It’s OK to make changes. Sometimes it can take an hour to write a good, solid email message if it’s particularly sensitive. Editing, re-writing, swapping paragraphs and finding a better word is just as much of the writing process as building the sentences.
In preparing this blog, I found a lot of good sources on effective writing. One person said“good writing is like math” in that it requires logic and is teachable. Also, like math, writing requires practice and patience to improve. Simply put, the more you write, the more you will improve.
When I think back on my own writing career, I cringe at much of the content I wrote early on. I improved over time, but it was a long, drawn-out process. Even as recently as 10 years ago, I thought my writing was merely average. I’ve done a lot more writing in the past decade, and I can recognize improvement. I don’t think I’ve hit anything perfectly – yet – but I feel I’m getting closer to that goal.
In today’s business environment, it is more important than ever to have solid writing skills. Certainly, it’s good to have verbal communication skills. But the way in which the world conducts business it is critical to write everything well, from emails and social media posts to the white paper that took months to compile.