The value of solid writing skills
  • Being a good writer helps you stand out from the crowd.
  • Repeated writing mistakes affect your reputation and credibility in the future.
  • Your writing is one of the primary mediums in which you will be judged throughout your life.
  • Your writing communicates your thoughts, and it’s important that those thoughts are conveyed in the clearest, most eloquent way possible.

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Communication

Kurt Vonnegut
t;Why should you examine your writing style with the idea of improving it? Do so as a mark of respect for your readers, whatever you’re writing.<

... for establishing what and how you will write:

  • Who: Who is my audience?
  • What: What do they need to know?
  • When: When does this apply, when did this happen, or when do they need to know it by?
  • Where: Where is this happening?
  • Why: Why do they need this information?
  • How: How should they use this information?
Keep it short

Think about how people read. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip - the long paragraphs that have more to do with what you want to say than what the reader needs to hear. Always keep your reader in mind.

And if you can’t write an email that’s less than half a page long, then email isn’t the best way to communicate this information. 

If your reader has to use Google or a dictionary to decipher what you’re trying to say, they’re going to feel annoyed.

Avoid jargon - it makes you sound pretentious, and it can further alienate your reader. Instead, write the way you talk. Keep it natural and direct.

They are direct, bold and more interesting than passive ones. In an active sentence, the subject performs the action of the verb. In a passive sentence, the subject is letting the action happen to them.

Example: The golfer hit the ball Vs. The ball was hit by the golfer. The first sentence is written in the active voice. The second sentence is passive.

Always be professional

Be authentic and to let your voice shine through in your writing, but also keep it professional. A good way to check the appropriateness of your content is to ask: “Would I be comfortable with this if it was on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow morning?” If this makes you cringe, do some editing.

Don’t leave it up to your reader to figure out what you want them to do with this information. Spell it out, and be specific. For example:

  • Please send back any edits by 5 pm on Tuesday.
  • Please call this client back by Friday to resolve the issue.

Pro Tip: If you need immediate action on something, talk to the recipient in person. 

The subject line

Use your email subject line appropriately. It is the headline for your email. And a headline’s job is to make sure the body gets read. For this, it needs to be short, direct, powerful, and specific.

The EOM technique
If you only need to ask a simple question in the email, use the End of Message (EOM) technique: Write your question in the email subject line and add “EOM” at the end. This saves your reader time because they can quickly reply without having to read the more superfluous text.

Example: “Will you be attending this Monday’s 2 pm meeting? EOM.”

Focusing on one topic per email gives your reader time to process what you’re saying and respond directly. It also helps them organize their emails more efficiently and find archived emails faster.

Never use email to deliver bad news.

If you need to lay off someone on your team, or provide feedback, do it in person. It’s easy for misunderstandings to occur through email. In person, you can communicate with compassion and empathy, and you can use your body language and vocal tone to further convey your sincerity and intentions.

Once you’re finished writing, proofread it immediately. If possible, put it away and read it again a few hours (or a few days) later. Giving yourself some distance from the writing will help you spot mistakes you might have missed on the first read-through.

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