Improving Your Written Communication Skills
Posted by Todd Smith
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In today’s electronic age, one of the primary ways we are branding ourselves is through our typed words. Our emails, text messages, and posts on social media sites reveal much about who we are.
How you are viewed impacts the respect people have for you, the influence you have with others, and the people you attract into your life. These things play an important role in your personal and professional relationships, in the value you bring to the market, and how you feel about yourself.
It really boils down to this: do you care about how you are viewed? Do you want to create a positive brand for yourself? If you do, it’s important that you start taking pride in everything you type and write. Begin today to put an emphasis on developing your written communication skills.
Of all the written communication skills on my list, here are my top 14 tips to consider with every message you type.
1. Write short sentences. Short sentences are easier to read than long sentences. If a sentence feels like it’s getting long, break it into two.
2. Write short paragraphs. Limit your paragraphs to three sentences. This allows for white space and improves readability. If a paragraph looks like a big block of text, consider how you can divide it into two or three smaller paragraphs.
3. Capitalize the first letter of each sentence. Not hitting the shift key is a surefire way to tell people you don’t care about how you are viewed.
4. Use people’s names. Just as people notice when you speak their names, they are also aware when they read their names. Writing “Hi Joe,” or “Hey Sue,” lets them know the message is for them and makes the person feel valued.
5. Be clear. With every message you type, ask yourself, “Is this message clear and to the point?” No one likes having to read a message more than once to figure out what the other person is trying to say.
6. Be concise. Learn to communicate your messages in the fewest number of words possible. This is my goal with every sentence I write.
7. Look for potential misunderstandings. As you proof your messages ask, “How could this be misunderstood?” Go the extra mile to avoid potential misunderstandings.
8. Provide a complete response. When you receive a message that asks multiple questions, be sure to address each subject or question asked. Don’t make people send another message repeating the overlooked question because you didn’t take the time to provide a complete response.
9. Number multiple topics. If you are covering more than one point, break out each point using numbers. I have yet to see a better way to communicate multiple topics than by numbering them.
10. Use a friendly tone. Do you notice the tone people convey in their written communications? Can you tell when they are aggravated, overly firm, curt, or offended? Communicating with a friendly tone will make you more attractive and your recipient more receptive.
11. Know when to pick up the phone. If there is something upsetting to you, pick up the phone and call the other person. Don’t allow yourself to send emotional messages that have the potential to scar a relationship and cause you regret.
12. Proof everything. Don’t ever hit the send, submit, or comment button on anything you have not proofed. Your time management is never more important than your personal brand.
13. Have it edited. If your document is important, go one step beyond your own proofing. Consider having someone edit it. I have every important document I create edited.
14. Take pride. Be proud of every message you send, including those going to your friends and family.
Remember the wise words of Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich who said, “A big success is made up from a great number of little circumstances each of which may seem so small and insignificant most people pass them by as not being worthy of notice.”
Be intentional and try to improve with every sentence you write or type. As you proof your written text, consider how it could be enhanced. Would a more descriptive word communicate your point? Can you find a synonym for that over-worked word?
This extra effort will take a little more time, but this is how you are going to get better. Focus on developing your written communications skills with every word you write or type, whether it’s an email or an important document.
If you are a new reader to this site, you may want to read my report, 49 Ways to Improve Your Email Brand, to find more tips to help improve your writing.
How do you think people could improve their written communications skills? What written communication skills have you struggled with? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below this post.
“You have to put in many, many, many tiny efforts that nobody sees or appreciates before you achieve anything worthwhile.” Brian Tracy
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