Posted 08 September 2015 by Chris Farmer
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Four Ways to Improve Your Written Communication Skills
Communication is the art of transferring your thoughts and ideas into the minds of others.
Your most efficient form of communication is language and your language can be in spoken or written form.
Sometimes, you may need to express your thoughts and ideas in writing.
For some people, that represents a problem, because they are not very good at expressing themselves in writing.
If you want to improve your performance of any complex skill, such as writing, then you can do that by learning and applying the proper principles which govern that particular skill.
If you need some help with your written communication skills, then please read the following. I want to show you four principles that will improve your written communication skills.
Here are the four principles:
- Give clear definitions.
- Illustrate with good examples.
- Summarize and repeat main points.
Let's look at each of these four.
1. Give Clear Definitions
It is important to give definitions of all your major terms. A definition is a statement of the meaning of a term. You need to define your major terms; and you need to do it early in the document. For example, this document is about communication and the first sentence in this document is a definition of the word, "communication".
It is important to remember that many words have more than one meaning, and that the meaning varies depending on how it is being used, and by whom the words are being read. If you don't define your terms, then your message may remain ill defined.
There are many words and phrases that are "often used but ill defined". Words like:
- Attitude problem,
All these words should be given an exact meaning. If you don't define your terms, you will be misunderstood. Whatever can be misunderstood, will be misunderstood. So define your terms.
2. Illustrate With Good Examples
In addition to giving definitions, it is often very helpful to illustrate your definition by offering some concrete examples. So a common sequence of writing will be:
- Name your point.
- Define your point.
- Illustrate your point with a good example.
For example, if I was writing about leadership I would follow the above sequence.
"It is important for all organisations to develop their leaders. A leader is a member of a team or organisation who is primarily responsible for creating and communicating a clear goal, and who is able to inspire others to work to achieve the goal. Good examples of leadership would be, Winston Churchill, or Walt Disney, or Nelson Mandela."
Enumeration is the act of numbering items, or categories. Enumeration is an important tool to use when writing because it imposes order onto your ideas. In addition it allows the reader to differentiate where one point finishes and the next point starts.
It is important not to give too many points in one block. The human mind is limited in its capacity to deal with information. The amount that most people can handle in one mental effort is between 5 and 9 bits of information, depending on the energy and motivation of the reader. So limit your message to no more than 9 major points.
If you have more than nine major points, then break them up into categories or subsets. And make each subset no more than nine units long.
Your message should be categorised and numbered. Then the reader can digest your whole message a bit at a time.
4. Summarize and Repeat Main Points
In order to help the reader to retain your message in their memory, it is important to summarize and repeat your main points. Repetition is important for the memory. If you don't repeat your main message, they won't remember it.
If you repeat your message over and over, they will be more likely to remember it.
So, Repeat after me: "Repetition is the mother of learning. Repetition is the mother of learning. Repetition is the mother of learning."
Good writing is based upon application of the correct principles. Here are four principles that will improve your written communication skills.
- Give clear definitions. A definition is a statement of the meaning of a term.
- Illustrate your definition with good examples. Give concrete examples that illustrate the definition.
- Enumeration. Number your main points and restrict the number of points made.
- Summarize and repeat your main points.