I often work with clients who aim to improve communication within their organizations. Many of them naturally focus their concerns on the verbal communication issues within their company but fail to evaluate the impact that their written communication may have.
Here are four simple steps to help improve your written communication:
- Consider your audience. When preparing to draft written communication, whether it’s an email, marketing materials, or a business report, consider your audience. How you address a customer may be very different from how you would address an employee. How you present information on your company’s fourth-quarter earnings and goals for the next quarter will be very different when addressing top leadership versus addressing an all-staff meeting.
- Plan out what you want and need to say. What is the purpose of your written communication? Think about what you need to say before you actually start writing. What are your key points and how can you best address those points? If you’re writing a report or preparing a presentation, create an outline of key points and the order in which you want to address them.
- Write and review. Write with purpose and don’t rush through it. And review what you’ve written as you go, and often. Does what you’ve written get the right point across and does it flow well? As I’m writing this now, I’ve already gone back and re-read it four times from the start. After I wrote #1 and #2, I re-read them two or three times and made adjustments.
- Have someone proofread it. While I’m not suggesting you have someone proof every email you send, if you’re drafting longer documents such as reports or proposals, or materials that will go out to the public such as marketing materials or articles, have a second set of eyes look it over. They may just find some minor typos or grammar adjustments, or they may provide feedback on how to improve certain sections or points. When I finish writing this article, one of my colleagues will proof it before we post it.
Evaluation is also key to improving your written communication skills. As you implement the four steps above to help improve your written communication, consider ways to measure your success. This may include having employees fill out a brief survey after a staff meeting, evaluating sales after a new marketing campaign, or tracking the number of proposals submitted and how many contracts were won or the feedback that was returned.
What is one way that you can evaluate the success of your written communication?