10 Tips for Effective Written Communication
Posted on November 22, 2013 by Stephanie ReyesLeave a Comment
Although a significant amount of meaning is communicated through nonverbal communication channels, like body language, gestures and tone of voice; in today's world of email, texting, and blogs, we rely more and more on the imperfect medium of written communication. If you've ever faced-off against someone who misinterpreted an email you sent in haste, you know that choosing the right words can sometimes be a challenge.
Why Words Matter
Words that are arrogant can turn people off.
Words that are negative can make people angry or despondent. Words that have double meaning or lack clarity can create confusion and mislead. Words that bore can put people to sleep and defeat your purpose. The main goal of effective written communication is to create a “conversational style.” This doesn’t mean writing the way you speak, though. Rather, in written communication, having a conversational style means using the polite, clear, and efficient language you would typically use in a professional setting.
Tip #1: Adopt a Natural Tone
Face-to-face, we would say:
“We need this order delivered by June 10th.”
When communicating in writing, some might write:
It is imperative that the complete shipment be received at the above-mentioned address no later than the tenth of June.
For a more natural tone in writing, you might write:
It’s very important that we receive this order by June 10.
Tip #2: Vary Your Tone Depending on How Well You Know Your Reader Writing to someone you know well
Thanks for sending me the purchase order for the extra brochures. Since you called me right away, I was able to change the printing quantity before the job reached the Production Department, which means you’ll receive all 2500 brochures next week!
Writing to someone you don’t know well
Dear Ms. Ryan:
Thank you for your revised purchase order for a final total of 2500 sales brochures. As originally requested, this order will be delivered to your office on Friday, June 16.
Tip #3: Consider Your Reader’s Vocabulary
A dichotomy in the opinions of the members present was evident. Several members favored increasing our operating budget, while the remainder sanctioned a spending decrease in this area.
The members at the meeting were divided about the operating budget. Some wanted it increased while others wanted it reduced.
Tip #4: Avoid Stilted Phrasing
Avoid using the words and phrases in the left column. Instead write what is suggested (or remove them as indicated) in the right column.
Acknowledge receipt of
Am in receipt of
At an early date
At this time
Due to the fact that
Enclosed please find
In reference to
In the event that
The party in question
Take the liberty of
Thank you in advance
Please allow me to
I would like to take the opportunity to
Under date of
Under separate cover
Up to this writing
I would ask/remind
Thank you for/I received
Let us know
Thank you for/I received
(Use a specific name)
(Just date the communication)
Will send/Am sending
Tip #5: Eliminate Unnecessary Words
Before: A cheque in the amount of $5
After: A $5 cheque
Before: At this point in time
After: Now (or today)
Before: I wish to take this opportunity to thank you for...
After: Thank you for…
Before: At all times
Before: On a monthly basis
Tip #6: Use Specific Nouns
Use words that identify people as specifically as possible.
One person claimed the computer tables were too small.
(Who is that “one person?”)
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