Written Communication Skills: Definition and Examples
Written communication skills can help you send messages and write reports effectively in the workplace. They allow you to write clearly and concisely, with concrete messages that all recipients can understand. In this article, we'll discuss what written communication skills are, give examples of written communication skills and give you tips for how to improve and showcase them.
What are written communication skills?
Written communication skills are the skills you use to convey messages in writing. Writing is one of the primary modes of business communication as it's used to offer detailed instructions, provide information and relay suggestions or ideas. These skills allow you to write lengthy or complex messages that all recipients can read and understand.
You'll need written communication skills for both internal and external communications. When addressing internal business employees, you might use notice boards, emails, reports, instant messages, bulletins, employee manuals and memos. You might use telegrams, contracts, brochures, advertisements, postcards, emails, faxes, proposals, letters, websites and news releases when addressing external parties.
Examples of written communication skills
Some top written communication skills that can help you in your workplace include:
Written clarity is the ability to create written content that is easy to read and not overly complex. In writing, you must know how to clarify your messages to allow your reader to best understand them. Written clarity can be achieved by using simple language in your writing and including only specific and essential details.
Conciseness is the ability to communicate a complete idea or topic directly in as few words as possible without sacrificing essential detail. As you write, get to your point as soon as possible to keep your reader's attention.
The tone of your writing refers to the voice you use to speak to your reader. You should have a professional tone for your business writing mixed with varying levels of friendliness and formality depending on who you're writing to. For example, you may use a more friendly tone when emailing a close colleague, and a more formal tone when writing to your manager.
Readers can easily follow and understand active voice rather than passive voice. Active voice also helps to improve sentence flow and make your reader have a quicker pace as they progress through your writing. People often use the passive voice in tech or research papers, but the active voice is preferred in business, marketing and educational content.
Grammar and punctuation
Depending on the level of formality in your writing, you will generally need to use proper grammar and punctuation. Using good grammar and punctuation allows you to get your point across, even in informal writing. This involves the correct use of tenses, commas, prepositions, articles and other elements of grammar.
Tips to improve your written communication skills
Business communications must be clear, concise and comprehensive to help your reader understand what you're trying to tell them. You need to know how to use your written communications skills to send written messages effectively in the workplace.
Here are top tips to help you improve your writing communication skills:
Plan before you start writing
Effective written communication is a process that starts before you write the first word. It involves planning the structure and content of what you're going to write. Most people try to figure out their thoughts as they write, but this can result in errors in structuring the work and relaying your message effectively. The easiest way to plan your writing is to plan a framework or outline that includes all of the things you want to include in your writing.
Choose the right words
The words you use in your writing determine how the audience will interpret the message. For example, you cannot use the jargon you normally use to communicate with your colleagues when writing an email to a new employee. For situations where you are addressing a broader audience, make efforts to explain industry terms and jargon for inexperienced employees. Avoid the temptation of using complicated words to appear more intelligent.
State your assumptions
It is easy for your audience to misunderstand you when you use assumptions in your written communications. For example, you might assume that your reader has gone through a particular report, knows about the latest policy change or has received a certain work order. If your assumptions are incorrect or unclear, the audience may misunderstand your message or even take inappropriate action. A good way to minimise assumptions is to understand your audience fully. You can inform them of the assumptions you make to ensure that they can properly assess the context of your message.
Format your writing appropriately
Formatting has a significant impact on your reader's experience. Properly formatting your written message makes it have a neat look and design. This includes the spacing and size of words, length of sentences and paragraph structure.
Use grammar tools
There are several tools, such as Grammarly and Microsoft Readability Assessment, that can help you proofread your written text. The tools highlight various types of errors, including spelling mistakes and improper tone. However, it is important to remember that the tools cannot capture all errors and you still need to have a careful eye when proofreading.
Edit your work
Editing your work thoroughly can help make your work professional and tidy. You can take a break first and go through your document several minutes later with a fresh perspective. You may also ask someone else to read through the work if you are unsure of what to edit. Remember to take constructive criticism and use external feedback to note the areas you need to improve on.
Review how your audience will receive the message
As you make your final edits, remember to put yourself in your audience's position. This can help you assess whether the text accurately communicates your message. Review the goals you established before you began to write and verify that you have met them all.
Ways to showcase your written communication skills
Written communication skills can help you at many stages of your career, from getting a job to performing well at it. The following are some opportunities you can use to showcase your great written communication skills to your employer:
When writing your CV
Your CV is usually one of the first encounters that your employer will have with your written communication skills. Your CV should be easy for employers to scan through to find your strengths and accomplishments. Use clear headers, lists and bullet points to group related qualifications and improve readability. Also be sure to edit and proofread thoroughly, as errors in your CV and negatively impact your chances of being selected for an interview.
When writing your cover letter
The more clearly and concisely you can showcase your skills and qualifications when addressing your potential employer in your cover letter, the higher your chances of getting invited to an interview. Use well-constructed sentences and rich detail to keep them interested in what you have to say. Weave details into a concise and engaging narrative that properly tells your story and declares your purpose clearly. You can use one or two of your accomplishments to show how your strengths and experiences make you a suitable candidate.
When writing thank you letters
A thank you letter is a great way to show appreciation when someone has done something to help you. It also doubles up as an opportunity to show off your written communication skills and network. The letter allows you to show your level of professionalism and send a friendly vibe. It can also allow you to show your attention to detail and mastery of tone.
When writing emails
Sending emails is a regular occurrence in many jobs. When writing a business email, you should remain credible, professional and friendly by writing direct and specific emails that properly communicate the response needed from your readers.
Writing reports and presentations
In some jobs, you may have to write reports or give presentations. Ensure that they are properly structured and easy-to-read for every recipient you anticipate. This includes avoiding terminology that only your team uses by offering proper explanations for anything that might be misunderstood.