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“Writing something for an audience is a way of making you consult representatives of that audience before publishing. What will marketing think? Will sales people be able to sell? Whether you consider those perspectives before or not does not change that they will react. This isn’t “buy-in” or “heads-up” but actually consulting the real stakeholders of a decision.”
If one person puts their thoughts together and shares it with a team, this helps the rest of the team put their thoughts together. Give others a thing to react to. Or else your team may not examine the full breadth of a problem.
If writing’s not your jam, now’s time to get better. Here are some tips that have helped me.
When you send someone a long presentation, document, or message, here’s what they care about: “What’s your point?” Do your reader a solid and answer this question early in your message. They’ll thank you.
Anyone who has zero context about what you’re working on and reads what you write should immediately understand what you’re trying to convey. There’s a neat trick that helps: write to someone who has no idea what you do. I choose my mom. She should be able to read an article of mine online and get the gist.
Even if your client or boss uses acronyms, always spell them out. “Create, read, update, and delete” levels the playing field. “CRUD” does not.
Whenever I write a presentation, I default to this format:
Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ‘em
Tell ’em what you just told ‘em
Tell ’em what happens next
“I’m going to share you three options on how we could move forward. I’d love to know which option you prefer and why.” (Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ‘em)
“Here are our three options.” (Tell ‘em)
“The three options we went over were A, B, and C.” (Tell ’em what you just told ‘em)
“Given we chose option B, here are our next steps.” (Tell ’em what happens next)
This structure works so well for presentations because it makes your message easy to follow. Try it.
“Our developers prefer Option B.” > “Option B is preferred by our developers.”
Passive voice plagues business communication. Don’t add to the plague. Use active voice.
I love complex ideas. But complex ideas always morph into long, rambling, verbose sentences, with lots of commas (and lots of parentheses). I’m working on this.
Gary Provost, author of Make Every Word Count, put it well:
“This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.
Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.
So write with a combination of short, medium, and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader’s ear. Don’t just write words. Write music.”
Great writing makes remote work better. It saves time, reduces meetings, removes extrovert bias, and invites other perspectives.
You don’t need to write articles to be a better writer. Let every Slack message, email, and text be vehicles for you to improve.
If you work remotely, let writing be your friend.
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Writing is increasingly important now as remote work has gone mainstream.
Be it Email, Slack, or Notion, all remote work is communicated with the help of writing. Writing helps save time by summarizing points in black and white to facilitate asynchronous communication, something of a mainstay in global organizations.
Five people in a room sitting for a one-hour meeting are spending a total of five hours of productive time. Real-time communication, physical or virtual meetings can be avoided most of the time.
Meetings should be the last resort, and writing comes to the rescue. Most meetings can be avoided by asynchronous communication on Slack, but if the threads are too long, and the decision is not in sight, it’s a signal that a meeting is required.
Many extroverts had a gala time in physical meetings, as their social interactions and energy kept them at the centre of attention. The quiet introverts, who might be great at implementing the ideas bounced on the table, were sidelined.
Remote work and the focus on the written word is the introvert's revenge, as now the scales are balanced towards merit and real results.
People can take time to examine the problem or issue, and provide their input, something which isn’t possible in meetings.
Writing forces individuals and teams to think clearly and participate in a productive discussion. Writing also invites people to rectify mistakes, and point out gaps in the idea. Added opinions, suggestions and corrections are a good thing for the project or the main idea.
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