Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Clear Communications - Why Written Words Matter

Much has been written about listening, the importance of speaking face-to-face, body language and the overall necessity of communications skills. I wholeheartedly agree with their essential importance. However, this old English teacher has a few words to say about why the written word matters.

From the standpoint of written communications, what are the benefits of it in today's world? First off, it is a digital world. Everyone emails, sends texts, Tweets and communicates through some form of Social Media. Unfortunately, because of poor grammar skills and overall less-than-stellar sentence structure, word choice and incorrect word usage, much of what is communicated is misunderstood and sometimes offensive!

Having effective writing skills empowers people, provides clear direction and increases productivity. It fits right into your overall communications tool chest. I have witnessed those without it lose motivation and become angry when their messages are not understood.

Think about it. If you need to send three or four emails, text messages, or letters to clarify your intent, productivity goes way down!

What Are the Elements of Good Writing?

It Provides Clarity.
Effective writing provides clarity and direction. Clarity prevents misunderstandings that lead to arguments and frustration. When you write effectively, your messages are simple, direct and easy to understand. Do not over-complicate what you want to say.

It Conveys the Correct Tone.
Because I cannot hear your voice and you write me an abbreviated or cryptic message, several things can happen. I can misunderstand your intent and become offended OR not understand what you are telling me. If your message is short, I might get the feeling that you are being curt with me. That might offend me. It is essential to make sure that the tone of your writing is positive, upbeat and that you do not write messages such as - R U GOING WITH MY COMPANY OR NOT? Write out all the words. Never use all caps - it indicates shouting. Include all the details that I need to understand your question.

It Uses Correct Grammar.
Nothing can be more damaging to your career (except maybe stabbing someone in the back) than sending out a letter to potential customers or existing clients with misspelled words, grammatical errors and poor sentence structure. Everyone makes an occasional mistake. We all do... but when it is constant, you will be considered unprofessional.

Do not rely on spell and grammar check in your word processing programs. Read everything over carefully before sending. If you have trouble with spelling, punctuation or grammar, ask someone in the office who is a good writer to proofread your work, particularly when it is an important communication, such as a presentation or proposal. If you truly have a problem, consider taking online or college extension courses to correct it.

Why Is This Important?
  • Successful people communicate effectively. Not only with verbal and non-verbal skills but with the written word.
  • It can make the difference between getting that coveted promotion.
  • Co-workers and clients will consider you intelligent if you write well.
  • Being able to understand and be understood creates self-satisfaction. You express your feelings, thoughts and emotions in an effective way, so you satisfy the area of the human spirit that longs to be heard. You also feel satisfied because you understand other people, which leads to healthy, strong and rich relationships.
  • When you clearly communicate a goal, the steps to accomplish it and the tools needed to fulfill the steps (whether verbally or in writing), people perform their jobs more efficiently. If a breakdown occurs, effective communication skills repair the damaged interaction and keep things moving in a productive way. People know what you want, how long they have to complete the task and what it is going to take to reach the goal.

"If you don't care enough to be correct in grammar and punctuation, what are you really telling your clients to convince them that you care about them or the details of their projects?" -Andrea Michaels, president, Extraordinary Events

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Work on improving your written word! I am a professional writer, and I learn something new to improve every day!

Carol McKibben was the launching publisher of Special Events magazine and the founding director of The Special Event. Today she runs McKibben Consulting, a writing and editorial service working with other writers and businesses to accomplish their goals. She is the published author of three books. To learn more, visit www.carolmckibben.com.

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