Wow everyone with the mere flourish of your pen or tap of your keyboard
We're constantly jotting down words on a day-to-day basis, whether at work or at home - a to-do list, a note to the milkman, a thank you letter to an elderly aunt. OK, that last one was probably something you did back when you were 10… but you get the idea.
Written communication is important, it's been around for millennia, and it's here to stay - despite what technology might throw at us over the next decade or so. We're social creatures - we love connecting with others and written communication is a valuable part of that.
It doesn't mean you have to take up quill and ink to write. Written communication covers anything and everything that's documented. Let's take a more detailed look.
What is written communication?
“Writing is a skill, not a talent, and this difference is important because a skill can be improved by practice,” so said the very wise Robert Stacy McCain, an American journalist, writer, and blogger.
We all know what writing is, but what exactly is written communication?
It includes any message, written down, that is exchanged between two people or more. Often more formal than communicating orally, it can be used for a variety of purposes and in a variety of formats. Most companies depend on written communication in order to function and share vital… and not so vital… information, in the form of letters, notes, and emails, as well as more formal documents such as progress reports and the minutes of meetings.
Examples of written communication
There are many different types of written communication that are used in a workplace scenario. Here are some examples:
They've been around for 50 years but are still going strong. Emails have pretty much replaced the letter, to become the formal face of written communication in business.
Think of it like this. If you're waiting for a job offer, and you're told verbally that you've nailed it and secured the role, you're not going to be completely happy and sure that it's true until you get that in writing. And that's normally via an email - whereas 20 years ago, a crisp letter on headed notepaper from the company would have popped through the letterbox. A spoken word can be dismissed, easily forgotten. When it's written down and documented, it's trickier for a prospective employer to renege on the agreement.
But emails are still on your PC, in the virtual world. That's why a lot of people like to print off emails, to have that physicality that a letter possesses.
You're reading a blog right now! Hopefully it's providing you with comprehensive and informative detail that will help you further down the line. The word “blog” is a mash up of “web log,” a website or web page that's updated regularly. It's usually written in a conversational tone and informs on a whole spectrum of ideas, from complex scientific ideologies to the latest on how to cook the ultimate one pot dinner.
Quick and easy to send, where would we be without texts? Everyone's got their phones glued to their sides nowadays anyway, so sending a text is probably one of the first ways we choose to send a message, as long as that's the appropriate format.
Often dry and lengthy, work reports can cover a minefield of information from the latest sales figures to an update on how the company's diversity and inclusion approach is being handled. It can be used to monitor progress, track employee performance, and discuss other work-related topics.
Detailing the minutiae of what a position entails, plus skills required from the applicants, job adverts are formal documents, designed to entice the right sort of candidate to apply.
With the purpose of promoting a particular service or product, press releases often adopt a positive style, inviting the reader to engage with the content and act upon it in some way.
Other work-related forms of written communication include:
Communicating succinctly with written communication
You want the reader of any written communication that you craft to fully ingest your words and come away with a clear idea of what you were aiming to put across. There are ways in which you can achieve this so that your missives are coherent, effective, and appealing.
State your intention
Getting across your goal or message to the reader at the beginning is paramount. This means describing in clear language what you want the reader to either know or do.
Select the correct tone
This will depend on the type of written communication you're dealing with. Writing a business letter will require a formal tone, whereas a text to a work colleague regarding the Christmas party will carry an informal tone.
Stick to the topic in hand
Remain relevant and clear. By keeping sentences and paragraphs short, you'll maintain the interest of the reader much more easily than if you're verbose and waffle on about irrelevant detail.
Steer clear of complex phrases and industry jargon. Keep it simple. That way, the reader will find it easier to read and won't feel humiliated or put off by not understanding certain phrases or words.
Apply the active voice
An active voice strengthens writing, making any statement easier to grasp. It also maintains the reader's attention as it's more forthright. For example, “The report has been sent,” is passive. It's much stronger to state, “I sent the report.”
Ensure the content scans easily
White space (which is any unused part of a document) can be your friend here. It helps to separate paragraphs, making it look less crowded and easier to read. This can be especially important for text on a screen, so vary the content with headings, bullet points, and short sentences.
Proofread, proofread, proofread
Before sending, go over your written communication with a fine tooth comb. It's a good idea to step away from it, even if it's just to make a cuppa, before coming back to re-read, and check spelling, grammar, and punctuation. There's no excuse for producing a poorly presented message littered with mistakes. If a colleague is willing to help out, ask them to look through it. A fresh pair of eyes can spot things you might have glossed over.
Tip: read the written communication backwards, as it will give you a different perspective.
Keep content professional for all workplace communications. That means no attempts at humour or discussing sensitive issues that may be interpreted differently to what you intended. Professionalism sets the tone, making it easier for the reader to trust and respect you.
Tips on how to improve your written communication
Honing written communication skills takes practice and skill. It won't come easily to everyone. You need to be able to convey any information in an effective way and with clarity, using the appropriate language, style, and tone, that fits best with whoever you're addressing. You want to be able to articulate the intended message, while taking into account your audience and the reason why you're getting something down in black and white.
In order to up your game when it comes to writing, it's advised you study the three key elements that make up a text.
Content - what is actually written. This should be interesting, engaging, and enjoyable to read.
Tip: improve the content by upskilling your creative capabilities and varying your sentence structure.
Style - the way it's written.
Tip: improve your style by finding your own voice and reading it through afterwards to make sure it all makes sense.
Structure - how the content is explained, the order its in, and if it's clear enough for the reader.
Tip: improve the structure by selecting original, straightforward language.
What is the purpose of written communication?
Since you first picked up a book and started to read, there won't have been a day that hasn't gone by when you haven't read at least a sentence. It's a vital part of interaction between people.
It has an integral part to play in transmitting knowledge, sharing information, and getting across ideas to lots of different audiences. With no written communication, scientific discoveries, history, and culture would be lost.
In the world of business, written communication, in the form of official papers, reports, and affidavits, are legally binding agreements that provide security during formal transactions.
It offers up a way of permanently recording crucial information that can be used and referred to at any time.
For communications like thank you letters, invitations, condolences, and congratulations, there's nothing quite like receiving a personalised message in writing. It cultivates goodwill, conveys a positive impression, and boosts customer relations. Not only that, it can reflect really well on your organisation's branding, creating a win-win situation all round.
What are the 5 Cs of written communication?
When drafting some form of written communication, keep in mind the 5 Cs so you know you've covered all bases.
Clarity - ensuring the message you want to convey is easy to understand and clearly stated
Conciseness - keeping your communication concise and avoiding all irrelevant material
Completeness - checking that the document / email / report contains all the necessary information
Correctness - proofreading to verify that all the information is error-free and accurate
Courtesy - maintaining a tone that is considerate and respectful
How to make your CV shine with the right words
Compiling a CV is very different to most other types of written communication. You certainly don't want to use AI to write your CV, as the recruiter will spot this easily - plus lots of key information that would make you stand out from the crowd will be lost.
It's difficult to know where to begin, but using action words will get you off to a good start.
Alternatively, you could engage the services of a professional CV writer, someone who is an expert and knows what they're doing.
Top Tip: if you're planning on crafting an amazing, stand out LinkedIn profile, concentrate on your headline above everything else. This is the part that will draw the reader in. You then need to keep their interest with a well-written summary.
Applying effective written communication to a cover letter
Ditch the clichés when it comes to writing a cover letter.
No one wants to hear about you being a “great team player,” “the best candidate for the position,” or being able to “think outside the box.” It's turning the school adage on its head as you should “show, not tell,” which means offering up examples that prove your worth.
Use a formal tone, complementing the information from your CV, but not repeating it. Draw attention to your CV, but with carefully chosen words within the cover letter that aren't trite or overused.
If writing was so easy, we'd all excel at it all of the time. But it isn't. It takes time and effort to craft that perfectly formed written communication. Worried your CV doesn't quite hit the mark when it comes to the words you've chosen? Let TopCV help you with a free review with no strings attached. Check it out today!