Whether you need to describe your work to colleagues or explain complex ideas to clients, written communication is a crucial part of our working lives. To help you master the skill of writing in plain English and gripping the attention of your peers, we've put together a beginner’s guide to written communication to get you started.
1. Identify your purpose
The first thing you need to do is clarify the message you are trying to communicate. If you don't know, how will others? Your purpose is the message that you will refer back to throughout your piece and will shape the structure of your writing. If you haven't figured out your purpose yet, ask yourselves the basic questions of what? why? how? who? to get you on to the right lines.
2. Talk their language
Understanding your audience is a crucial part of any communication and can be decisive to how well your ideas are received. Think about who will be reading what you’re writing and what is valuable to them. Ask yourself how much information and detail they’ll need – or want. Stay away from jargon and only use specialist terms that your target audience will understand. You’ll also need to think about how formal or informal your writing should be.
3. Trust me, I'm an expert.
The next step is: know your subject. Understanding your topic is important whenever you’re talking about it and especially so in your writing. We can't all be human encyclopaedias, but make sure you have a solid knowledge base and know how to answer the most important questions.
4. Can you hear me?
It's all well and good achieving the first few steps, but if no one understands you, what is it all for? The most effective way to keep the attention of your audience is to structure your communication. That way, you can keep bringing them back to your original point. Our top tips for structuring your piece are:
Start with a solid introduction. The introduction is the first impression. Outline your purpose and how you will explain it in more detail.
Structure with themes. The body of your work should be outlined in themes using headers. Your themes should follow a natural progression and will help readers understand the flow of your ideas. To get you started, jot in note form what you want to cover and think of ways to link areas together.
Summarise. A clear summary at the end of your writing is invaluable in helping your audience understand you. It can also be useful to add in small summaries within each section or theme that refer back to your purpose.
5. Be creative
Creativity can go a long way. Not only does it grab people's attention, getting creative can help people understand complex ideas in new ways. You can incorporate your creative flare in different ways. For example, you could change the way you present your information, with an infographic, a poster or a timeline. Or you could think about interesting analogies or comparisons that shine a new light on your topic. There are loads of examples out there so scour the internet for examples to get you inspired!
Some more top tips for communications success
Express your opinion when appropriate; it's valuable.
Keep it short and to the point.
Proof. Read. Everything. Ask a colleague for a fresh set of eyes. Fact: a study by the University of Hertfordshire found that poor spelling or grammar alienated 77% of the 500 companies surveyed.
Use the correct grammar and spelling. If you are worried about grammar, use a tool such as Microsoft Word to type up your copy. This will help pick up spelling mistakes and suggest better ways to phrase sentences.
Take your time to write. A good piece is not rushed.
Write with plenty of white space. Use bullet points and paragraph spaces to keep the content clear. This helps readers find the information they are looking for and refer back to other points.
Enjoy it! Your audience will be able to tell if you’re churning something out, so let those juices flow and create something you’re proud of.
If you need help getting your communications in order, please get in touch. We’d be delighted to help.