The world today allows for an array of different written communication styles. Everyday communication skills range from instant messages and text messages to formal business documents, so now more than ever it’s important that we’re able to hone our skills and adjust our written communication according to the situation at hand.
Your communication skills are fundamental in representing you, and it’s important that you retain self-awareness when it comes to how you communicate in written form. It’s especially important that you’re aware of who your audience is, and precisely what message you’re looking to get across.
For example, an email to a friend regarding your evening plans should take a completely different tone to a business email to a prospective client. It’s important that you’re aware of, and can identify, when your tone must be formal or informal. In this sense, it’s not you that sets the tone of your communication; it is in fact your audience.
In everyday life and in communication with friends and family, communication skills come more naturally than in a formal business setting. We have all looked at a blank email screen and felt intimidated as to what to say and how to begin. This is when you should start thinking about your audience, and specifically, what it is that they need to know first.
It’s important for you to create an outline of the document, be it an email, a presentation, a report or a speech. Outlining what you want to get across in the first instance will give you a fantastic launch pad from which to develop the content of the document. This approach allows you to break down the information into bite-size pieces that you can tackle one by one.
If the purpose of what you’re writing is to provoke action from the reader, there are some tips you can use for effective communication skills. These include using empathy: try and make your reader understand why they should care about what you have to say. Another effective technique is using rhetorical questions to really highlight your point. And finally, make sure your language is simple and your point is clear and direct. Using too many long words may make you sound clever, but it may also confuse your readers.
The structure of your document is also very important in this regard, as all the information needs to be clear to the reader. Using proper paragraphs with headings, subtitles, bullet points and numbering whenever possible will really help the information to be more digestible.
Your headers need to be punchy and interesting to engage your audience. It might be worth considering using questions as headers to create leading content that inspires the reader to learn more.
Another way to break up long and text-heavy documents is to use visual aids such as graphs and pictures to demonstrate your points. Not only does this help to present statistics and concepts in a way that is more reader friendly, but it also draws the eye to the page.
It almost goes without saying that a document demonstrating good communication skills does not contain grammatical errors. It is very important that you take the time to learn and understand correct spelling, grammar and punctuation in order to avoid making mistakes that your spell checker can’t identify. Common confusions often come from words of which there are multiple spellings and meanings, including there/their/they’re and to/too/two.
Proofing is an essential part of any document creation to ensure no errors are present. It’s important to take your time whilst proofing any document, and not be tempted to rush the process. If you have looked at a document for a while it can be easy to miss glaringly obvious mistakes, so our advice is to take a step away from it for a few minutes once you have finished, before coming back to proof it. Reading the document aloud can also be a beneficial proofing technique.
The most important lesson for communication skills is to ensure that you’re getting your key points across as quickly and efficiently as you can, whilst ensuring your work is written professionally. Try writing down everything as you think it and then go back over the document and take out the words that are unnecessary.
Never forget that identifying your audience is the key to writing any document effectively and imagine as you are writing it that you are saying it to their face. Personalisation is key to effective communication skills, as allowing your audience to identify with what you’re writing is going to go a long way in getting your message across.
Manners are also very important, as the tone of written communication often affects the feelings of the person reading it. Make sure you read your work back to yourself before sharing it, and ask yourself if you would be happy to receive the document, and whether anything could be written more sensitively or neutrally.
In conclusion, the key points to honing your written communication skills include knowing your audience, structuring your document effectively, being efficient with your words, and ensuring there are no errors by reading your work back to yourself to ensure it reads well.
If you’re looking to develop your written communication skills to a more professional level, or if this is a service you think would be beneficial to your employees, be sure to take a look around our website to better understand how we can help you to achieve this.