Written communication is a crucial skill to have in the modern information age. Most jobs require you to communicate in writing through email, formal letters, notes, text messages or online messaging. Written communication skills allow you to give direction effectively.
In this article, we define written communication and discuss ways to communicate clearly using written communication.
What is written communication?
Written communication is any written message that two or more people exchange. Written communication is typically more formal but less efficient than oral communication. Examples of written communication include:
Most businesses require and depend on written communication to function and share information.
Qualities of effective written communication
All effective forms of written communication have these qualities:
Comprehensive: Includes all the relevant details
Accurate: All details are correct
Appropriate: Has the right tone and level of formality
Composition: Has correct spelling and grammar
Clear: Is understandable
Ways to communicate clearly with written communication
Effective writing allows the reader to understand everything you are saying. Here are a few ways you can communicate clearly and efficiently:
1. Identify and clearly state your goal
Effective written communication has an obvious goal that you convey to the reader. Describe in clear words what you want the reader to do or know.
2. Use the right tone
Tone can help your writing be more effective. Some forms of communication, such as memorandums, require a formal tone. Writing to a friend, however, requires an informal tone. The tone you use depends on the purpose of the writing and the audience.
3. Keep it simple
Avoid jargon, expressions or big or complex words. You want to make it easy for the reader to understand what you are saying, regardless of their familiarity with your company or industry.
4. Stay on topic
Avoid irrelevant information. Clarity is essential. Keep paragraphs and sentences short, as complicated and lengthy statements slow the reader down. Only include words that add value to the reader and focus on your main goal.
5. Use active voice
Active voice strengthens your writing and makes your statements easier to understand. Active voice also engages the reader and keeps their attention. An example of passive voice is, “The letter was sent.” You can communicate this statement more clearly and concisely if you rewrite it in active voice: “I sent the letter.”
6. Have someone proofread your writing
Correct punctuation, spelling and grammar are crucial. Have someone read your writing before you send or share it. If no one is available, then read it out loud to yourself.
7. Make it easy to read and scan
Emails, memos, letters and webpages with brief text and plenty of white space are easier to read than text-heavy communications. Break your content into easy-to-read and understandable paragraphs or sections. This is particularly important when viewers read on a screen, such as web content and emails. Use bullet points, headers and short paragraphs to make your text easier to understand.
8. Be professional
When writing for work, keep the content professional. Avoid making jokes or discussing sensitive topics that the reader might interpret differently than you intended. A professional tone, particularly in formal communications, makes it easier for the reader to trust and respect you.
The more you write, the stronger your written communication skills get. Practice writing a variety of communication types frequently, including:
Consider writing hypothetical press releases and advertisement copy, for example, rather than documents your organization plans to send or publish. Have a friend or colleague read your writing and give you feedback so you know what to improve when your manager does ask you to write professional communication.
The importance of written communication in business
Companies use written communication in nearly everything they do. Here are several reasons this form of communication is important for business:
Economical and efficient
Written communication is cost-effective. A letter, for instance, costs less to make than a long-distance phone call but can communicate the same thing. Letters are also accommodating. Professionals can write letters at their convenience, and recipients can read them. Alternatively, you might receive an important phone call any time of day, including times when you are busy.
Written communication is ideal for sending messages that are not urgent. For example, you can send a simple postcard or letter to thank a client or inform customers about order updates.
Many business communications are long and complex. Carefully written letters help ensure that even complicated communications are accurate. Miscommunications are more likely to occur with verbal communications such as phone conversations.
Written communication, particularly when signed by one or more parties, is more official than verbal communication. It serves as a permanent record of an agreement, conversation or deal, and you can refer to it in the future.
Goodwill and branding
The best way to convey communications such as invitations, seasonal greetings, thank-you letters, congratulatory messages and condolences is in writing. Personalized written messages help develop positive and respectful professional relationships. You can also use letters to promote customer relationships, create a positive impression and build goodwill. For example, you might send a professional contact a written note for their birthday, when their son or daughter gets married or when they receive a promotion.
Written business letters make these situations more personal and promote friendship. For this reason, they are indirect business promotion tools.
Besides communicating information and building goodwill, letters also help create a positive image of the company that sends them. Every letter a company sends is a goodwill ambassador that speaks for the organization’s values and quality.