Remember when you were in school, and your English teacher assigned an essay? Everyone groaned and complained. Maybe some people opined that writing a five paragraph essay was a waste of time and not something that you’d ever have to do out in the “real world.”
Then you got out into that “real world” and you quickly learned that your English teacher had a point. Everything we do hinges on effectively communicating with others. In the old days, you might call a colleague, customer, or vendor to discuss an issue. However, as business has shifted in the digital economy, email has become the norm of formal business communications. This means that clear, effective writing skills are more important to your career now than they have been in any other post-industrial economy.
Communicating your ideas in writing need not instill fear. You already know what to do. You learned it from your English teacher. Here are the top success factors for composing compelling written communications. These can be applied to any form of writing—email, social media postings, even texting:
–Decide on a key message. Your teacher referred to this as the thesis of your essay. Think about the point you Working in groupwant to convey, what you want to convince your reader of, and what outcome you want.
–Provide supporting details. You need to include facts that bolster your key message. Why should your reader agree with you, buy your product, or forgive your shipping error?
–Be concise. Your teacher told you, “quality over quantity.” When fewer extraneous words suffice to support your key message, opt for brevity. It will serve to improve the clarity of your writing (not to mention people’s short attention spans).
–Consider the tone. What style of language will help to support your message? Formal? Accusatory? Apologetic? Friendly and congenial? We’ve all gotten messages written with an entirely neutral tone. Not only are they boring to read, but they also leave us scratching our heads, wondering what the writer really meant. Communication is more how you say it than what you say.
–KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. This is the most important one of all. You need to understand who will be reading your message. What do they value? What problems are they trying to solve? Why are you writing to them?
Of course, it goes without saying that your grammar, punctuation, and spelling should be impeccable, even when you text or Tweet. Good writing commands respect. It says, “Wow, this person knows what they’re talking about.” It can be the deciding factor in responding to your call to action. Thank your English teacher for teaching you how to do that; make him or her proud by putting it into action!