4 Ways to Advance Your Professional Written Communication Skills
Due to recent global circumstances, everyone’s a bit more video-savvy in 2020. This bodes well for the technology industry, especially for businesses pushing to accelerate their digital transformation efforts.
However, when it comes to our old-fashioned written communication skills, many people still struggle to communicate clearly. Unlike video, text does not allow us to see facial expressions, or hear voice pitches and volumes, all of which provide helpful communication and social cues.
With written communication, tone can be misread, misleading or altogether missing.
Text-based communication still dominates the workplace
Why does written communication remain the most common way we communicate professionally? To put it simply, there’s just too much information being shared for one person to remember.
Effective written communication gives you the chance to clearly express your message to your audience with little room for interpretation.
For this reason, it is critical for you to maintain and improve your written communication skills.
At a time when we’re all writing more emails, posts and instant messages because we’re all working remotely, it’s crucial – for communication to be effective, and business to run smoothly – that we get the message right. Read on for some simple tips on how to improve written communication within the workplace.
How to improve your written communication skills for the workplace
1. Think before you write
It might sound simple, but written communication isn’t as forgiving as verbal communication. To ramble on and switch topics in an email is not charming – the way it could be during a face-to-face conversation.
Instead, write with intention. Ask yourself:
- Who is my reader?
- What am I asking for in my message?
- What are the key takeaways the reader should get from my message?
In addition, you can strengthen your written communication skills by applying the 5W + H method to your writing when necessary to make sure the following information can be easily answered:
- Who is this information relevant to?
- What do they need to know?
- When and where will it apply?
- Why is this information important?
- How should the reader use this information?
Then compose your message accordingly.
EXPERT TIP: When requiring a response from your reader, add a call to action to your message. It’s extremely important in your communication to be clear about your expectations. If you require a response, note that you require a response in the message and include information on how the reader can or should respond. With clear calls to action, assumptions about required actions are eliminated.
Don’t forget to reread before you hit send.
2. Keep it simple
Buzzwords, industry jargon and acronyms are all over the internet and can mean different things to different people. If you use too many buzzwords, your writing looks generated, insincere, marketing-focused and sometimes even ill-informed. Text-based communication is all about the words you use, so in a professional setting, less is (usually) more.
One study on the Impact of Linguistic Concreteness found that “content was judged as truer when written in concrete language than when written in abstract language.”
On the other hand, ornamenting your sentences with multisyllabic, long words to appear intelligent might do the very opposite, or even make you seem pretentious and old-fashioned. Be straightforward and concise in your writing.
Say what you mean – staying both professional and friendly, of course!
3. Find the right balance between professional and friendly
Some colleagues might have a formal communication style, while others are more relaxed. It can be hard to determine who prefers what, especially when we’re all disparate entities working from different locations. In this case, aim for a balance: Err on the side of professionalism whenever you’re in doubt – after all, this is work – but because everyone right now could use a bit of humanity, it doesn’t hurt to add a personal “Hope you’re keeping well” or “Stay safe and healthy” to begin or conclude your messages.
Words that are nice but succinct are likely to be viewed as more professional and genuine than throwing in emojis (many of which might not register on certain devices) or unnecessary exclamation points that make you seem overexcited (and therefore insincere).
When improving your written communication skills in an email, for example, you should apply the following basic structure to maintain a friendly and professional communication style.
- Short subject line
- Appropriate salutation
- Introduction of information with a personal touch
- Body with core information
- Signature with contact information
When in doubt, have a colleague review your work and ask for feedback.
EXPERT TIP: Remember, the key to any professional communication is empathy. Be sure to empathize with your reader in order to have the greatest impact while maintaining professionalism.
4. Don’t overlook grammar and spelling
It may sound obvious to those working to improve overall written communication skills, but using poor grammar and misspelling words – whether unintentionally, or to purposely shorten text or appear less formal – can make you come across as careless about your communication, or even unintelligent.
Grammar can be tricky, especially if you’re using a language that isn’t native to you, but it’s just a matter of practice. Keep reference books on hand, or bookmark resources. Some resources we have bookmarked are:
And, of course, seek out similar resources available in other languages if need be. And don’t forget about spellcheck.
EXPERT TIP: If you’re still getting familiar with a language you’re not used to using in business settings, maintain your newfound skills from your smartphone or tablet with the free Speexx app from Google Play or the App Store.
Benefits of strong written communication skills in business
As we mentioned before, many of the world’s knowledge workers have been working remotely as early as February, forcing traditional work meetings to be conducted GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype.
Although this results in a demand in video presentation skills, professional writing skills are still highly favored, and also highly necessary in the workplace.
According to a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, “73.4% of employers want a candidate with strong written communication skills.”
Not only is this specific communication skill a highly desired among employers, but also within teams themselves.
Employees with strong written communication skills often report:
- Stronger decision-making and problem-solving skills
- Increase in productivity
- More influence with stakeholders
- Streamlined workflows
- Higher response rate
Too often, teams hit roadblocks in projects solely because of miscommunications. Strong written communication skills expedite work, leave less room for interpretation, and exercises leadership.
Why written communication skills are necessary for a global workforce
We’ll remember 2020 as the year that video communication truly boomed- and not just for work meetings. People have been using, and getting well-acquainted with, these same tools as a substitute for real, in-person quality time, in order to maintain social distance.
But of all communication channels available, written communication skills remain the most necessary for business, given that the most common form of communication in modern business remains the written form.
Here at Speexx, we’re very aware of how important effective written communication is. We have offices around the globe, employees from more than 37 different countries and speak more than 35 languages among us. It’s safe to say we know firsthand how tone might come across differently, given different backgrounds, cultures, and values.
Based on our own experience, we want to emphasize that it is important to remember that if you’re writing to someone of a different cultural background, there is a certain etiquette to follow.
While knowing the recipient’s language is helpful, language is far more complicated than direct translations. Even in English, there are cross-cultural differences in meanings: an American might not necessarily know to direct a Brit to the toilet (American English: “restroom) when asked where the (British English) “loo” is.
In short: don’t forget to take cultural nuances into account!
Take your professional written communication to the next level
You should also remember to write in a way that will engage the readers of that society or culture. Some cultures may prefer emotional and inspirational writing, while others may prefer more factual writing peppered with statistics.
And even on an individual level, pay attention to who might write in a style that’s more curt and to the point, versus those who enjoy conveying enthusiasm, excitement and making small talk. It shows a great deal of emotional intelligence to be able to “mirror” how someone speaks – even if it’s via writing.
To best maintain your professional written communication skills, you should continue to practice! If you are interested in learning more about how to improve and maintain your written communication skills, visit Speexx for more information.