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How to Improve your Written Communication

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Posted 26 June 2015 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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You may find the following will help with your Written Communication skills training.

How to Improve Your Written Communication

At work, you probably have to communicate in writing.

For many, they have problems communicating in writing. And for a very specific reason. Many people have gotten into very bad writing habits, by using text messaging as their habitual form of written conversation. And text messaging is tending to dumb down the written word.

Which in some contexts, is okay; but in other contexts, it is NOT okay!

The written word has many advantages over the spoken word

The written word is permanent; it is more considered; it can be easily relayed to others and finally, the written word has more gravitas. If the person really means what he says, he will be willing to "put it in writing".

Here are some nice tips on better writing skills.

1. Put time and place elements at the beginning of sentences

For example. On Monday, 25th April 2015, we met in your office, to talk about the marketing of the XP15.

2. Make your sentences shorter by limiting the number of conjunctions

Don't let the sentence drag on and on. Make your sentences short. The rule I use is to not allow any more than three "and"s, "or"s or "but's. (And, or, and but, are all examples of "conjunctions").

Conjunctions are words that join phrases and have the effect of extending the sentence, which is okay, but if you keep on going on and on, and saying too much then, as in this sentence, you will overwhelm the mind of the reader and he will be unable to absorb all the information that you are presenting and he or she will soon switch off his or her brain, or he will take the wrong part of your extended sentence and assume it to be your "main point" and thus, he may misunderstand what it is that you originally meant to say.

The above sentence was far too long. Make your sentences shorter by limiting conjunctions.

3. Make your main points obvious by making them sub-headings

Each main point should be the first line of a new paragraph. Then, in the subsequent lines of that same paragraph, you can go into greater detail to explain your main point. The explanation should detail the meaning of the main point. You may want to explain how you know your main point is true, (show your evidence to substantiate your main point). And finally, you may wish to suggest the implications to action that follow logically from the main point stated in the first line.

For example:

We have concluded that it was the Butler who committed the murder. The Butler had the motive, the means and the opportunity to commit the murder. The motive was jealousy, (the Butler and Lady Marmalade are secret lovers); the means was poison, (traces of Oleander, which is a common poisonous flowering shrub, which grows on the Marmalade Estate, were found in Lord Marmalade's blood stream and on the shirt cuffs of the Butler); the opportunity was the dinner on the evening 24th March 2014, that was prepared and served by the butler, to Lord Marmalade, on the evening of Lord Marmalades death. As a consequence, we suggest the court should find the butler guilty, as charged.

4. Limit the number of points that you make

The human mind can only take in a limited amount of information, in one sitting. Psychologists tell us that the average person can only retain 7-9 bits of information in the short term memory, before he or she is likely to start making errors. You need therefore, to limit the number of points you make, in any one section of writing. When writing, try to bundle information into packets of about 7 or 8 points. Then summarize those points as bullet-points. Then start a new section and try to bundle similar sets together into another group of 7 or 9 units.

5. Use correct grammar, logic and rhetoric

You are judged not only on what you say, but on how you say it. If you have a good point to make but your wording is weak and poorly constructed, then the power of your message will be lost. So you may like to begin a gentle, informal study of three related subjects:

  • Grammar.
  • Logic.
  • Rhetoric.

Grammar is a study of the mechanics of proper English. What is a verb? What is an adverb? What is an adjective and a preposition? This is the stuff you should already know, but you may have forgotten. If you want to write well, then you will need to know some basic grammar.

Logic is the study of correct reasoning. If you want to convince people that your conclusions and recommendations are correct, then you will need to show some evidence of proper reasoning. And since logic is the study of correct reasoning, there is much value for you to be gained by making logic a systematic study. (Study Aristotle's logic, not symbolic logic nor mathematical Boolean logic).

Rhetoric. Rhetoric is the systematic study of the emotional effects of words on the mind and the emotions of the reader. William Shakespeare, Winston Churchill and even Barak Obama are students of the "figures of rhetoric".

If you want to study rhetoric then you could read, "Elements of eloquence" by Mark Forsyth.

Here are the points to remember:

When writing;

  1. Put time and place elements at the beginning of sentences.
  2. Make your sentences shorter by limiting the number of conjunctions.
  3. Limit the number of points that you make.
  4. Use correct grammar.
  5. Use good logic and
  6. Spice it all up with some really ripe rhetoric.

Thank you.

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