Written Communication @ Work – Part 1

In this day and age, most of us spend a fair amount of time at work sharing our thoughts and ideas in written form. Be it in emails, instant messages, presentations and what not. But not all of us could claim to be experts in written communication. Why not? Well, the same reason why we cannot be called expert speakers in spite of speaking on a daily basis for years since childhood. An expert in any field knows the DOs and DONTs of his/her craft.

This is my attempt to learn those DOs and DONTs and try to become an expert in something that I do on a daily basis.

  • Understand the purpose of writing
    • Know why you are writing. Know what you want the outcome to be.
    • Say clearly and convincingly, what the issue is and what you want to accomplish.
    • Focus on the reaction you are trying to elicit from the reader.
  • Understand your reader
    • Respect your reader’s time constraints. Understand that your readers have no time to waste: Get to the point quickly and clearly to ensure that your message gets read.
    • Use a tone appropriate to your audience.
    • Highlight the important thing “what’s in it for them”. If they can easily see how your message is relevant to them, they will be more likely to read it and respond.
    • Connect with particular reader to connect with larger audiences. If you focus on a smart nonspecialist who is in your audience, you’ll strike a balance between sophistication and accessibility. Your writing will be more appealing and persuasive.
  • Divide the writing into a series of 4 separate tasks using the MACJ method. (Madman, Architect, Carpenter, Judge)
    • Madman
      • gathers ideas and material first. Dumps all the best idea to come early by methodically brainstorming at the beginning of the process.
    • Architect
      • organizes the madman’s raw material into a sensible outline. Distills ideas into 3 main propositions.
      • Categorize the main points in sets of three (4 or more is too much)
    • Carpenter
      • Write the draft copy as quickly as possible using architect’s outline and madman’s ideas without worrying about perfecting the prose.
      • Don’t get stuck waiting for an inspiration. Try giving yourself 5 to 10 minutes for each section when drafting.
      • Don’t edit and perfect until the draft is finished.
      • If you are stuck with something, move to the next section.
    • Judge
      • assume the role of the Judge to edit, polish, and improve the piece. Do this in several distinct passes, each time focusing on only one element of your writing.
  • The Who-Why-What-When-How Chart
    • Who are you writing for? Consider your audience’s concerns, motivations, and background.
    • Why are you writing? Keep your purposes firmly in mind. Every sentence should advance it.
    • What needs saying? Include only the main points and details that will get your message across.
    • When are you expecting actions to be taken? State your time frame.
    • How will your communication benefit your readers? Make it clear to readers how you’re meeting their needs.

Reference

  • HBR Guide to Better Business Writing