In this age of information overload, where we send and receive information a lot via texts, whatsapp, communication platforms, social media and of course email , our written word becomes our identity. Earlier, most important discussions necessitated face to face interactions, which is why etiquette on dressing, shaking hands, eating etc was widely published. However now, businesses too have begun to rely heavily on online communications as the primary channel, and in-person discussions are relegated to good-to-have option. How we write communicates a lot about, who we really are – our college background, our reading habits, clarity of thought, how aggressive/friendly we are etc. For e.g. bad spellings and silly mistakes in a note to the client- conveys that the author is reckless, not thorough and sometimes irresponsible. This could even mean that the client begins to question, the author’s capability.
Early good impressions always stick, and help build credibility in the long run. If you wish to grow and lead teams, interact with clients etc.; it is important to start paying more attention on the written word.
Here is a list of things to look out for while communicating via writing:
- Understand the basics of the language – chances are while growing up, you didn’t pay much attention to propositions, spelling etc. or didn’t have access to good English teachers. Invest time (and probably money) in trying to understand the basic language formation. MS Word will over look principle for principal, but unlikely your client will. So relying heavily on the document editor is disastrous.
- Think before you write: Spend some time articulating your thoughts and then start writing. Being articulate in your note conveys clarity of thought and also establishes the depth of knowledge.
- Be brief and to the point – A very long written email, is a put off. Most people either skim the email or store it for “another time”. Don’t repeat that, which is already well-understood or is common knowledge. This is especially true in PowerPoint presentations- a cluttered slide does not convey any information.
- Don’t use big words to show-off – We do this sometimes to appear more intelligent and clever, but all we end up doing is confusing the reader on our point of view. e.g Post evaluation of the proposal and juxtaposition of our views, we continue to be persuaded by uber ideologies.
- Acronyms – All acronyms don’t mean the same thing everywhere or the reader has never heard the acronym before. As a general rule ensure the meaning of your acronym is communicated, that is precede an acronym with its expanded name the first time it’s used ( Indian Institute of Management –IIM).
- Colloquialisms – In India, we have a few phrases/words which are unique and distinct to how Indians communicate, these are best avoided while talking to a more global audience. For e.g. pre-pone( to imply : advance), revert back (to imply: revert), I have a doubt ( to imply: I have a question) or Xerox ( to imply : photocopy). Be careful of these, especially when you write, since it can confuse the context of your note.
- Social Media – The use of Social media like Sype or whatsapp to communicate is common practice. But just because, the conversation is via social media one doesn’t have to switch to an overtly casual language e.g. gr8 for great. Maintain a certain level of business etiquette always.
- Infographics and charts – To explain data flow or explain a growth chart , you could use Infographics (try www.piktochart.com) and charts (like those available on MicrSoft Office tools). Learn to make use of these tools, they appear more professional and conveys clarity of thought.
- Posting/sending – Type out the content of your note, but refrain from sending it immediately. Take some time out, and then revaluate the context of your note. If you have help from a boss or a friend who can review, do make use of it. Never post/send/respond when you are angry or in a hurry. Only aggravates a situation, and with a client that is best avoided.
“You can have all the great ideas in the world and if you can’t communicate, nobody will hear them.”