By Stacey J. Haseleu
What you write directly affects your reputation. Although this statement seems pretty obvious, you would be surprised how many people think they can somehow get away with ineffective communication just because they’re writing and not speaking.
Working in the corporate world for the first 8 years of my professional career taught me a few things about communication. One of those lessons is that people seem to become more brave and less careful when they communicate through writing than when they talk on the phone or face to face.
I would argue that effective written communication has more of an impact on your professional image in this day and age than verbal communication does for the following 5 reasons:
Digital media is permanent; it can’t be “taken back.” In the age of e-mails, text messaging, and “tweets” as the new tools for communicating important thoughts and ideas, people have become lazy. They feel like they aren’t held directly accountable on the spot for what they say because they’re interacting with a computer rather than another human being. How many of you have typed up an “angry email” in a fit of rage when you were completely frustrated by a work situation? I bet ten minutes later you regretted sending that message. But with the new digital age, taking back what we say is impossible. What we write becomes even more important because it can essentially be preserved for years, which brings me to the second reason written communication skills are more crucial than verbal…
Body language isn’t apparent through an email. When you email a colleague, client, or your boss, even if you think you’re being cute and witty, that person may not take what you write with the same humor that you wrote it with. I’ve seen it many times. Someone writes a comment to a co-worker thinking it’s a funny, sarcastic way to end an email and World War III erupts in the office. When you write your business thoughts, you have to be extremely careful not to try to insert wit, humor, or sarcasm. These are qualities that can be appreciated in verbal interaction through body language and voice intonation, but as of yet, we don’t have a way to convey these emotions through emails and text messages (especially since emoticons and text-speak like LOL and BTW aren’t appropriate in the business world).
Most first impressions are made through written communication. When we apply for jobs, the first form of communication we have with our potential employer is through our resume and cover letter. If we don’t make the right impression through these documents, we can forget about an interview, let alone getting a job. The words we choose and how well we convey our thoughts and ideas is crucial to perspective employers and to moving up in the company we’re currently with. If you can’t communicate effectively in your resume and cover letter, then chances are you won’t advance in your career. If you need help making the “write impression” with your resume contact me for a free quote.
Written communication is more difficult than verbal communication. When you meet with a client, colleague, or boss, you have the ability to interact back and forth and to ask one another questions to clarify statements you make. While this is still possible through written communication, it can become tedious and time-consuming. With that being said, when you initially send a written communication to someone, it’s imperative that your writing to be concise, comprehensive, and clear. People have a tendency to write in code, that is, they don’t write what they mean to say. Written communication can make people turn into clumsy communicators, trying to use large words to impress their audience. Instead they end up looking stupid because the audience understands the communication would never be used in a verbal conversation.
Written communication has a larger audience. The one thing you’ll always hear me preach to my clients is that “audience is king.” Everything you write should be tailored to your audience’s specific needs. When you speak to a group of individuals, narrowing down your audience is easier than when you write. When you are speaking, your audience is directly in front of you. You are able to take into account age, ethnicity, and usually corporate status (ie is this a CEO or a mail delivery clerk?). When you write, though, you cannot tangibly see your audience in front of you. And this is where most people make the mistake of thinking that because they can’t see their audience, they don’t have to tailor their writing to any particular demographic. Since your communication has the potential to be spread to more than one audience, it becomes crucial to recognize all of the possible individuals who may read your communication. If you use large words you may lose some members of your audience. If you write with an informal tone, you could offend your superiors. All of these aspects can be taken into account when verbally communicating without much effort. Written communication is challenging in this aspect because without seeing your audience, you must be aware of any potential viewers of your piece. You must always take into account that whoever reads what you write has the potential of “forwarding” what you wrote to another audience (a secondary audience or even a third group).
With the evolution of business communication shifting from face-to-face interaction to emails, LinkedIn accounts, and text messages, understanding the importance of written communication is crucial. So the next time you sit down to write an email to a colleague, client, or superior, remember the 5 tips above. Would you say what you write to your boss face to face? If not, you may want to rethink what you wrote.
- Non Verbal Communication: A Powerful Tool In The Workplace (dangerouslee.biz)
- Advanced Communication Skills (maesline.wordpress.com)
- Dear Sir, u gt ne jobs 4 me? Spk l8r… Young unemployed using text speak when applying for jobs, employers say (metro.co.uk)