Writing for the World of Work
Writing for the world of work is a communication skill as much as a writing skill. Writing at work today is our way of communicating—we email more than we converse. Our writing now “speaks” for us. Technology has not decreased the need for effective writing skills at work. Indeed, there may actually be an increased demand for good writers as we embrace the world of emails, electronic reporting, instant messaging and. . .
We have a new kind of reader today. Readers used to expect to have to read, reread, interpret, sort and select as a part of the process. They expected to have to work hard to get the information.
Today’s reader only wants to read once, understand at the first reading and be able to make a decision. In fact, it is preferable to be able to simply skim and easily find the information that is
Not only has the reader changed, the readers expectations have also changed. I call it being “CSI’d.” The TV show CSI follows a particular format. They show you the crime right up front and the rest of the story is about understanding the crime. When we’re writing for work we need to keep in mind that people want the important stuff first and then the explanation.
As the pace of work continues to increase, people have less time to compose, create, review and study the written information at work. They want to write quickly, clearly and directly and they want to get results! The reader wants to read once, understand the first reading and take the action required! Everybody wants to complete the process with ease, speed and accuracy. In order to do this, writers need to write for readers. Our training has not always been to write for the reader to understand. In fact, more often than not, a writer wanted to impress the reader.
Do you remember the writing you did in school? Did you try to use bigger words? Did you try hard to sound more impressive by using your thesaurus? Did anybody ever tell you that simple sentences were for simple people? Did you try to use longer, more compound and complex sentences? Did you worry about how your writing flowed? Did you work hard to provide unity and coherence?
All of these ideas were excellent guidelines for writing essays, papers, book reports and academic documents. But, do they work when we are writing for the world of work? The key element that sets the world of work apart is the need for clear communication. In our workplaces, we do not need to be impressed as much as we need to understand.
Indeed, when we write for work it is far more important to express the information than impress the reader. Expressing information often means being clear, concise, complete, correct and courteous. Readers read and understand best the writing that is short, simple and specific. This often means using the thesaurus in reverse—looking up short, simple words to replace long, unfamiliar ones. It means short sentences, short paragraphs, more point form and ease of reading.
Then, we need also to be aware that the world of work is full of busy people. They need the information in direct ways that generate action instead of reaction. When we offend or upset our reader with negativity, doubt, threats or lack of understanding, we will not get the results we want. Although objectivity is still important, it must be balanced with the human factor. Messages must be given in positive, considerate ways. We have a new reader in the world of work who reads the tone as well as the message. Even negative messages need to be presented in positive ways. We must focus our writing in such a way that it appeals to the reader. The goal of writing at work is to achieve understanding, shared information and action.
We are faced with breaking old habits in our written communication. Our writing must be up to date, interesting, informative and reader oriented. This is the challenge of “Writing for the World of Work.”