These days, almost every job listing you read asks for candidates with good writing skills. In an age when people communicate via email, text messages and social media more than through actual face-to-face conversations, the ability to effectively express yourself in writing is of paramount importance. Clear communication not only prevents misunderstandings, it also improves the image of both the manager and the organization.
Unfortunately, though, even the most effective manager can make writing mistakes. From simple typos and grammatical errors to not understanding the importance of tone, there are several common mistakes managers make in their writing. Knowing how to identify (and avoid) these mistakes can help any current or prospective leader stay at the top of her game.
“We Need to Think Outside of the Box to Create Synergy.”
One of the most common mistakes managers make when they write is peppering the message with jargon, buzzwords or slang terms that sound outdated at best — and are often meaningless. Some managers use these words because they want to sound professional and knowledgeable — have to show off everything I learned in those organizational leadership masters degree courses, right? — but instead send an email that’s 75-percent jargon and mostly useless to employees.
Although using the terminology of your company is important, instead of trying to impress people with meaningless language, strive for clarity, brevity and understanding. You’ll sound more professional, and everyone will know exactly what you’re talking about.
“Send the TPS Reports ASAP, TX, TTYL.”
Thanks to text messages and online chats, acronyms have become an accepted form of communication — among high school students. In the professional world, though, managers need to take care to avoid overusing acronyms or text speak in their communication. Certainly, some acronyms are necessary, but only use them in written communication if the readers will know exactly what you mean. Avoid text speak at all costs to maintain a professional image.
“It Has Come to My Attention That Due to the Fact That … ”
Many managers, in an attempt to sound more formal turn into pompous, long-winded bores in their written communication. They force the readers to slog through five paragraphs of fluff before getting to the point, or restate the same point three different ways. Again, clarity and brevity are important in written communication. Do you want your employees to spend their time reading your emails and trying to interpret your meaning, or acting on your requests?
Writing is the one time that managers should “BLUF”: bottom line, up front. Start your communication with the important information first and don’t bury the lead. If you’re announcing a new initiative, for example, outline your expectations up front, and then get into the explanation.
“It’s Time for you to Present Your Findings”
Not everyone is a grammar expert, and there is no such thing as a perfect document; however, as a manager, you need to make every attempt to make your communication as flawless as possible. That means spell-checking and proofreading everything that comes out of your office — especially public documents or online communication, such as social media posts. A simple typo could be embarrassing to you and your organization — and even cause a public relations nightmare. Don’t fall victim to a case of “right spelling, wrong word,” though; a single letter can make the difference between effective communication and an embarrassing situation.
Take an honest assessment of your writing abilities and weaknesses, and take steps to correct them. That might mean taking a refresher course or workshop or enlisting the help of a knowledgeable employee or associate to check your work before you send it.
The ability to write effectively is just one of the many skills successful managers share. Take care to write well in both your personal and professional life and get help when you need it. How you use the written word could make all the difference in moving up the career ladder — or staying stuck in a lower- level position.
About the Author: After earning her master’s degree from Our Lady of the Lake University online, Marisa Richards accepted a leadership position at a Texas-based staffing firm. A communication expert, she leads professional development workshops in business writing and speaking.