By Laura Thorne, MACNY Consulting Partner
Do you ever feel like you’re having a hard time getting your point across using the written word? Emails not getting the response you’re looking for? People still asking questions after reading the instructions you put together? It’s not surprising that written communication can be a source of conflict and inefficiency when you think about how quickly we’re all working and how our writing tendencies are getting more and more drawn to texting and inserting emojis rather than writing out full sentences. Fortunately, there are some simple fixes you can start implementing today.
There are many different types of writing, and they all come with their own conventions and best practices. Depending on the situation, you might take a different approach and use different writing techniques.
However, as a professional, most of your writing tasks are probably pretty consistent. It’s almost impossible to go a day in any job without writing at least one email. Not every role in manufacturing requires a lot of writing, but that doesn’t mean writing isn’t important. In addition to emails, you might also write memos, reports, instructions, SOPs, and other business-oriented content.
Improving your writing doesn’t have to be a tedious process. If you can remember a few key strategies and tips, you’ll be able to incorporate them into your daily writing tasks and pretty soon, they’ll become habit. You’ll be a better writer before you know it.
Overall, it’s important for workplace writing to be clear, straightforward, and concise. Efficiency is an important part of any job, and your readers will appreciate that your clear communication saves them time. Work can be fast-paced and it’s counterproductive to have to write a second email to explain your first one.
I find that the strategies listed below really do improve my writing, so I stick to them as much as possible. They’re pretty straightforward, but simple improvements can go a long way.
Without further ado, here are a few tips for writing in the workplace.
Know your audience.
Before writing, take a moment to consider who you’re writing to. What’s their level of familiarity with the subject? How much time do they have? What is the main information they need to receive? For example, in the workplace, we’re often writing to coworkers, bosses, or others in the same field. Therefore, it’s often appropriate to use career-specific jargon. However, don’t assume that every audience has the same level of knowledge and use layman’s terms if writing for a less specialized audience.
Make your emails enjoyable to read.
Don’t be that person everyone dreads receiving an email from. For starters, nobody likes a long email. People tend to scan emails and important information can get lost in large blocks of text. Break up long paragraphs and make sure the main message is clear at a glance. If appropriate and necessary, add section headings (just like I’ve done in this article).
Secondly, keep emails positive. Even if you have bad news, start with a kind salutation like “I hope you’re having a great week.” This will set a positive tone and build goodwill with your audience.
Lastly, take the time to be courteous. Address the person by name and sign off with a pleasant closing and your name.
Use simple vocabulary.
Usually, there’s no need to break out the thesaurus on the job. Numerous superfluous or grandiloquent vocabulary words convolute your signification and impede the recipient’s comprehension…see? Big words do have their uses. They’re good for conveying a very specific meaning or for cutting down the number of words used. But in the workplace, simplicity is more important than creativity.
Narrow it down to the essential.
Workplace writing isn’t usually very complicated. When you sit down to write an email, a memo, or a report, there’s typically one or a few key pieces of information that your readers need. Before you start writing, take a moment to define exactly what your reader needs to know. Convey this information clearly at the beginning of your writing and keep it in mind throughout.
More technical resources
There are many, many resources available for improving your writing. Here are a few that I find particularly useful for workplace writing. I drew on many of these resources in writing this very article. Hopefully, you’ve found it helpful.
- Federal Plain Language Guidelines
- Seattle University Guidelines for Writing for the Web
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)
If this type of advice resonates with you, reach out to Laura about here one-on-one coaching services.