We go to workshops, take seminars, and pride ourselves on our ability to communicate clearly. Still, we sometimes forget that communication is a lot more than our ability to say the right words, use the right body language, or actively listen.
When it comes to business, writing is the form of communication many of us engage in the most, yet we often give it the least attention.
How many times have you jotted off a quick email without double checking to make sure your message was clear and said exactly what you intended it to say?
Or perhaps you can recall that horrible story of an advertisement, newsletter, or proposal that went out with some tiny little mistake—a misplaced comma perhaps—that changed the entire meaning of your message.
In a world of text messaging, tweets, and status updates, where ‘communication’ involves using the least characters possible to get the quickest message across, it’s easy to let bad habits and lack of attention to detail carry over to all forms of written communication.
Believe it or not, people do notice and care when that tweet you just posted for your business doesn’t make sense. When lack of clarity reigns king in an email, proposal, or companywide notice, you’ve got a real problem.
Miscommunication can be frustrating and time consuming at best—at its worst, it can destroy your business and the key relationships that keep that business thriving.
So, what are some key habits to develop to ensure the message you want to send is the message that is actually received?
- Think before you print … or write, or type, or swype
- Take a moment to think about what you want to say, who you want to say it to, and what you want your readers to take away from your message. Sometimes this is VERY obvious, and sometimes not. Taking time to think about your message (maybe even outline?) can completely transform your writing.
Write in a way that will appeal to your reader and his or her perspective, rather than your own.
- Ask yourself, why am I writing this? And be sure by the time your message is written there is no way your readers will be asking you the same question.
- Assess your address … or more simply put, consider the style and tone—is the voice you’re writing in the right one?
- In written communication we don’t have body language to help deliver the message. So while you may think your writing is clear, direct, and succinct, your readers may think it is abrupt, aloof, or downright rude.
- Be conscious of the words you choose and how your reader is likely to interpret them. You don’t need to be paranoid, just take a moment to consider:
- Are you using such academic or complicated language that your readers will feel confused or even offended?
- Is your speaking voice friendly and casual whereas your written voice sounds like a political address—what message does this send?
- Have you tried so hard to explain yourself clearly that your writing is now wordy and repetitive? –Cut it out! (literally)
- Review, Revise, Review!
- It’s what your grade school teacher told you to do and a practice that you never need to outgrow. Even if you’re sending out a one-line email, take a few seconds to look it over.
Sometimes the quickest note is the most likely to have a simple error that twists or changes the whole message.
- When you’re reviewing, check to make sure you’ve written your message clearly, concisely, and with power. Of course, edit for spelling, grammar, and sentence structure, but also make sure your words say exactly what you want them to say.
- After you’ve revised your message and gotten rid of any pesky little typos or writing faux pas, review once more to make sure you didn’t add new mistakes.
So, dear reader, next time you’re in front of your desk, tablet, phone, or even a note pad, take a few extra minutes to think about your message, your audience, and what it means to communicate in the best way you can. Schedule some additional time to review your writing and prevent miscommunication mix-ups.
If you’re interested in learning about what communications services I offer-please visit Communications or email charlene[@]charlenecarr.com.
Originally posted on AWENS.ca Dec. 11, 2014