From writing complex proposals to formulating a basic email – managers spend a lot of their time typing behind a keyboard. But how perfect do managers’ written communication skills really need to be? Is it enough to just be ‘okay’ or ‘average’?
The short answer is no. Managers must have perfect written communication skills in order to be effective within their management role. With over 3,000 remote writers to manage at The Content Panel, we’ve learned a thing or two over the years about how to communicate effectively with a team almost exclusively via written methods.
Here’s a closer look at why great writing skills are so important, and what managers can do to actively improve their written communication at work.
5 Reasons Why Management Needs Perfect Written Communication Skills
1. They send and receive A LOT of emails
To put it simply, managers send and receive a ton of emails throughout their day at work – it’s just a part of their job. In fact, on average, office workers receive nearly 120 emails per day and send an average of 40 emails per day. And for many managers, that number is much higher.
Having good written communication skills not only helps managers to process this high volume of information at work, but they can also respond to important emails in a timely and efficient manner. Conversely, time theft is done unknowingly by employees when they take their time reading through an article looking for buzzwords for those emails instead of actually writing them.
2. They can demonstrate basic professionalism
Good writing not only demonstrates that you have a basic level of professionalism, but it is a sign of respect to others – both inside and outside of your organization.
In some cases, your level of written professionalism can even put your company’s bottom line at stake. For example, a proposal or report written in the wrong tone could make or break a business deal. Therefore, it is imperative that managers recognize this responsibility and are able to write and formulate these documents correctly, in the right tone, and in a way that will adequately inform or persuade the reader.
3. It can help them maintain good record-keeping practices
From employee performance reviews to financial reports – managers have a lot of documents to keep track of. Managers with strong written communication skills are not only able to efficiently document important information on a regular basis, but they are also able to analyze and understand records from the past. They can then use this knowledge to make good decisions for their team and for the business as a whole.
4. It shows they can process complex thoughts and ideas
Great writers have the ability to not just process complex thoughts, but they can communicate those thoughts clearly for other people. This is a skill that most managers must have in order to perform their job effectively. Without the ability to write well, managers may struggle to explain their ideas in a way that their team members can understand.
5. They can persuade and influence others
One of the key reasons why managers need good written communication skills is to persuade other people. Whether it’s to convince an investor to sponsor a project or to motivate a supplier to agree on a lower price – managers often find themselves in a position where they need to use the art of influence through written reports, emails, and sometimes even handwritten letters. For good writers, this is easy. However, bad writers may struggle to form convincing arguments.
Developing Written Communication Skills: 10 Tips for Managers
1. Read more… and then some more
One of the easiest ways to become a better writer at work is to simply read as much as possible. Reading a variety of content on a regular basis not only exposes you to new ideas and trends, but it can also help you to get a feel for what good writing looks like.
Try to set aside a few minutes at the beginning and end of each workday to read something that challenges you. Whether it’s an article by a business leader on Medium or a column in a top industry publication, the important thing is to at least read something new each day. Over time, you will quickly notice that as you read more writing from others, your own writing improves.
2. Think about your readers first
Remember, the purpose of writing is often to convey a piece of information or an idea to someone else. Before writing any piece of content such as a memo, report, or proposal, always consider:
- Who the message is intended for
- What they need to know
- Why they need to know it and
- The context of their role and department
Additionally, you should always keep your tone of voice in mind. For example, a piece of writing intended for your team that is formal in tone may come across as cold and unfriendly. On the contrary, a proposal intended for your boss that is too laid back may give off unprofessional vibes. To prevent misunderstandings, always make sure that the tone of your written message matches the audience that is receiving it.
3. Take a moment to jot down your ideas
Before typing anything on your computer, try to take a moment to jot down some of your ideas on a piece of paper. Oftentimes this can help you clarify and organize your thoughts, and it may even inspire you with new ideas that you haven’t even thought of yet.
While it may not be practical to do this for every single email that you send, it is still a useful exercise in cases where you need to write something more elaborate or particularly sensitive. For example, when writing a delicate email to a colleague, a report for your boss, or a monthly newsletter to your team.
TIP: You can apply the Pomodoro method, in this case, to timebox your work session – that time of the day when you need to fully focus on emails – through a web app.
4. Less is more
Never forget that your colleagues at work consume a lot of written content throughout their workday. To make their life easier, try to take a ‘less is more’ approach when writing professional emails and documents for them. This means:
- Only writing the absolute bare minimum of what you need to write
- Not including any unnecessary details and
- Keeping sentences as short as possible
Though it may be a difficult transition in the beginning, a ‘less is more’ approach to writing actually makes things easier on you, since you will be writing fewer words. Not only that, but it’s also much easier for your readers to quickly digest and understand what you are trying to communicate to them.
5. Read what you have written aloud
This might seem like a silly tip – but it can make a huge difference! After writing an email or proposal, go somewhere private and read it out loud to yourself. You will quickly realize which sentences of your writing sound natural, and which sentences sound clunky, out of place, or simply grammatically incorrect. If you’re not comfortable with reading out loud, you can always try using a text to speech or voice reader app to read your writing for you.
Again, you won’t have to do this for every piece of writing that you send out, but it’s worth doing for important emails and reports.
6. Stay away from buzzwords and jargon
Good writing is clear writing, and that means you should try to stay away from using trendy buzzwords or jargon that your readers may not understand. Additionally, you should stray away from using complex wording that only individuals in your department would know.
For example, if you work as a manager in the finance department, those in marketing may not understand the meaning of certain words used in finance and accounting. When writing for them, try to bear this in mind, or at least include a definition for them when conveying any technical information.
7. Don’t be afraid to use headings, subheadings, and bullet points
The majority of your business writing will not be in an essay format. Therefore, feel free to use as many headings, subheadings, and bullet points as you want. This makes it much easier for your readers to understand and process the information that you are trying to communicate to them.
Headings and subheadings work great as guides in longer pieces of writing, and bullet points come in handy when you need to organize your information into lists. You can also play with bolding, italics, and underlining to make sure that your most critical points are highlighted and easy to find.
8. Write in an active voice
It is very easy to get into the habit of only writing in the passive voice – which can make your writing become overly wordy and complicated. Instead, try to make sure that your writing stays in an active voice.
For example, the following sentence can be written in two ways:
- Passive voice: “It was decided by the team to move the weekly meeting to Monday mornings at 10 am”.
- Active voice: “The team decided to move the weekly meeting to Monday mornings at 10 am”.
Though subtle, the active voice is much easier for your readers to understand as it clearly positions “the team” as the noun that is doing something. In cases with the passive voice, it can be difficult for readers to process what is happening.
If you ever feel like your writing is too wordy, you are likely writing too much in the passive voice. To help, try rearranging a few sentences and seeing where you can change passive words into active words – your audience will thank you for it!
9. Make it clear what you want or need from your readers
With each piece of writing that you write, you should always make it crystal clear what exactly you want or need from your readers. In some cases, you may just simply need to inform them of something. However, in other cases, you may need them to either abide by a new policy, sign up for training, or respond to you by a certain time.
No matter what you need them to do, it’s important that you spell out that information clearly and locate it in an easy to find place within the document or email. This ensures that your writing has a real impact on your readers and that they respond in a way that you want them to.
10. Double check your grammar
Even the most seasoned writers make grammatical mistakes every now and then – it’s simply a part of the writing process. However, that is no excuse for delivering a piece of writing that is full of mistakes and errors.
In order to make sure that your writing is the best it can be, you should always run it through a last-minute grammar checker. Online services like Grammarly are super easy to use, and they can often catch mistakes that Word and Google Docs may miss.
Bonus Tip: Take a business writing course
There is nothing wrong with participating in a business writing course to brush up on your written communication skills. Check out LinkedIn, Coursera, and Udemy to explore your options both for yourself and your team. Nobody’s writing is perfect, and there is nothing wrong with setting aside some time to make your writing better.
So there you have it a crash course into the most important written communication skills in the workplace. In a nutshell you need to:
- Consider your relationship with the recipient
- Be mindful of your tone of voice
- Take the time to ensure you are being clear
- Proof read outloud
Remember just those 4 general points, and you’re going to be a master wordsmith in no time at all.