Why Good Writing Matters — and 4 Ways to Teach It to Your Team : Under30CEO Why Good Writing Matters — and 4 Ways to Teach It to Your Team : Under30CEO
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Why Good Writing Matters — and 4 Ways to Teach It to Your Team

| July 26, 2013 | 6 Comments

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In a time of emoticons, abbreviations, and 140 character-count replies, a three-paragraph email is the equivalent of “War and Peace.” But communication is a vital part of office life, whether you’re a lab technician sharing results or a human resources staffer announcing a new wellness program. There’s a simple way to guarantee that miscommunications happen as infrequently as possible on your team: ensure every person is a good writer.

Writing Right

Clarity is vital to the business world. But in a world that operates at a faster and faster pace, brevity is key. Why write an email when a short text message suffices?

There are many reasons. It’s easy to misunderstand a message that’s hastily or poorly composed. It’s even easier to read the wrong intention in a short email that doesn’t provide the right emotional context. Every member of your team needs to communicate precisely and concisely — in writing and face-to-face.

Mastering the Message

Every office tries to be timely and efficient. Most of them do it at the cost of context and clarity. When you’re pressed for time, the last thing you want to do is over-explain to your client or co-worker. A quick note might actually cause more problems than solve them.

Are you neutral or irritated? Is this urgent or not? Mistakes and misunderstandings suggest that you aren’t well-educated, don’t care about your client’s project, or lack the skills to complete it capably. That’s why poorly written emails affect communications inside your office and customers’ perceptions of your business.

That’s not an impression you want to communicate to your customers or your employees to communicate to each other. Here are four ways to build a team that communicates clearly:

1.     Start in the manager’s office.

If a company’s leader works to improve his writing, employees might follow suit.

2.     Teach.

Show examples of clear and complete communication at a team meeting. Give specific feedback on written and verbal communication. Make expectations clear and note what can be improved.

3.     Hire for it.

Looking for a new position? Screen your new job applicants on their ability to clearly communicate, both verbally and in emails. 

4.     Create incentives.

Reward your employees for fewer mistakes in this area. Then, create an ongoing report so your team keeps up the good work.

Real Talk

It’s proven: People who communicate clearly in writing, speaking, or presentation are perceived as more intelligent, prepared, and helpful. When someone communicates well, it’s easier to trust him. When your co-workers and team members have faith in each other, it’s easier for customers to have faith in your business.

But it’s not all about perception. Businesses that communicate clearly are more efficient, which means they make fewer mistakes and don’t waste valuable time correcting them. That translates to a more profitable business with a better reputation and a stronger, more cohesive team. Now, isn’t that worth an extra few minutes of consideration and composition? According to your business’s bottom line, the answer is clear.

For more than 25 years, Drew McLellan has been in the advertising industry. For 18 of those years, he owned and ran his own agency. Today, McLellan leads up the Agency Management Roundtable, which advises hundreds of small- to medium-sized advertising agencies on how to grow and build their profitability through webinars, consulting, agency tools, workshops, and more. Connect with him on Google+.

Image Credit: shannonyarbrough.com 

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  • Michael Luchies

    There are some good general points here, but I think a more expanded look at this issue is needed.

    Grammar and communication in general is a very touchy subject for many people as they may take even the slightest critique as a personal criticism.

    A couple things I would be interested in learning from Drew is how to approach this problem with employees who are not communicating effectively, ways to reward for effective communication (#4), and how to teach (bringing someone in to teach, holding meetings, sending out information..?).

  • Pingback: Why Good Writing Matters — and 4 Ways to Teach It to Your Team | KYEAN.org

  • Justin Tan

    I definitely agree writing is an important skill and you make some very valid points, but I think having a couple more examples would definitely help. For example your 1st point “Start in the Manager’s Office” is an excellent point, most people aren’t willing to change/improve unless they see somebody else doing it first.

    But how is the Manager supposed to start learning to improve his writing? Should he ask for feedback from his team members or should he apply for a writing course online? Most people know that they should improve their writing, but if the manager can show HOW he improved his writing, then the employees can also use the same technique to improve theirs.

    All in all a good article that does show us how important it is to improve writing, and hope my comments help!

  • drewmclellan

    J — I believe it is the manager’s responsibility to recognize the importance of clear written communication and do whatever they need to do to keep improving. I think just keeping it top of mind will help. Beyond staying focused on the goal, there are several things they could do:

    1. There are several good books that have exercises to strengthen your writing skills
    2. Making the time to edit/tighten all their written tools — from emails to memos will help
    3. Asking for feedback/mentoring from other strong writers within the company
    4. Taking a workshop or class

    Writing, like any skill, improves with practice. Fortunately, we all have ample opportunities to refine our writing skills!

    Drew

  • drewmclellan

    Michael — you are absolutely right. There’s a lot more that can and should be said on this topic. Sadly word counts and the assumption that readers won’t tolerate long articles sometimes get in the way!

    One of the other work place skills that could be improved is the ability to give constructive criticisms and feedback. I believe when it’s approached as an opportunity to get even better, rather than punitive — the employee will be able to work past any hurt feelings and see it as a chance to learn and improve. I find the best teaching tool is real life situations. When there’s a misunderstanding with a client or internally because something wasn’t well written — use that as an example and make it a teachable moment.

    A manager can also offer edits/suggestions along with the explanation as to why it would be an improvement. I’ve always found that if I use myself/my writing as the “bad” example (after all — we can all be better writers) then my teammates are more open when we look at their own work.

    Hope that helps a little!

    Drew

  • anesvold

    Wrigting and reading is part of our everyday lives. All day and everyday you are reading or wrighting something.