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Five Communication Resolutions

§ January 1st, 2011 § Filed under communication, small business, training, writing § Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , § 3 Comments

Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.  – Brian Tracy

I guess everyone who has a newsletter, blog, or newspaper column tends to write the type of article in January that I’m about to inflict on you today. It’s the dreaded resolution column. (grin) So here it is. Here are five communication resolutions I would like you to consider as you make your plans for improvement in 2011.

First, resolve to read. Find a good book and enjoy the story. Read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Read blogs and newsletters, but be sure to balance with edited work. Reading good writing will help your writing skills.

Second, resolve to proofread. Read your written communication aloud before sending it into the world. I don’t expect text messages to be grammatically correct (yes, even this grammar maven has given up on text messages), but make sure you include all the words necessary to convey the intent. Leaving a word out can change the meaning completely, creating either confusion or damage on the other end.

Third, resolve to use resources that help with common writing problems. One of my favorites is the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University. This site provides help with writing, from detailed grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure issues to writing related to a job search. If you need more detailed help, including one-on-one coaching, please contact me.

Fourth, resolve to correct your common errors. If you unsure how to use its and it’s, ensure and insure, affect and effect, list these words on a pad near your computer with their meanings. See Spelling: Common Words that Sound Alike. If you can’t figure out when to use good or well or bad or badly, you may want to print out Avoiding Common Errors.

Fifth, resolve to be kinder. Remember that while you may disagree with someone, you can nearly always find areas of common interest. You never truly know what someone else is dealing with or what causes them to view the world so differently from you. Try to pause before you respond to what someone has said, especially if he or she irritates you. Find a way to phrase what you say so that it does not insult the other person. That does not mean that you have to agree with them, but understand that a phrase such as “That’s not the way I see it” is much better than “You need to consider…” We need to find a way to heal the divisions between us. Being kind in our communication is a good first step.

Happy New Year! May your communication bring you closer to your customers, clients, coworkers, friends, and family!

Error-Free Business Correspondence

§ June 2nd, 2010 § Filed under communication, small business, writing § Tagged , , , , , , , , , , § No Comments

Want your email to be error-free? Here are some suggestions.

Do you have a tendency to forget to include important pieces of information in your emails or business letters? If so, answer the “5 Ws and an H” as you write:

Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

Not every email has to answer all of these questions, but if you’re inviting someone to an event or explaining something important, running through these questions will help you cover all the necessary points.

Read it out loud

Once you have finished your email or business letter, read the whole thing out loud. We are all in such a hurry these days that it is normal to leave a word out or say something that doesn’t put across what we intended. Reading out loud forces you to slow down and check for errors. It’s also a good way to check for repetition or phrases that cause the reader to lose concentration.

Find an extra set of eyes

If you have the time, have someone else read over your more important correspondence. An extra set of eyes can give your text a fresh look and find errors that you are too close to see.

If you make a mistake, your reader will probably be able to figure out what you meant. Remember, though, that being clear and error-free makes you look more professional and makes your reader feel he or she was important enough to receive your best effort.

The Importance of Good Writing

§ June 1st, 2010 § Filed under communication, training, writing § Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , § No Comments

Times are tough.  Businesses find it more difficult to stay profitable and layoffs are common. Let’s face it. The economic situation provides employers with an opportunity to let go of people who do not have the skills needed to keep the company competitive.  As an employee, you need to increase your abilities to be safe from layoffs.  Increased competence will also provide more opportunities to be hired and promoted into jobs that pay well, even in these difficult economic times. The better your skills, the better the odds are that you will be able to ride through these economically difficult months.

One of the most important skills any employee can have is the ability to communicate clearly.

If you cannot write well, you reduce your chances of getting hired.  According to a recent survey of businesses, 80% of companies in industries with the highest growth potential use writing skills as a measure for hiring.  86% of companies reject applicants who have poorly written application materials.*

Good writing skills are important after you get hired as well. Over 50% of these same companies assess writing when promoting employees.* You may not even realize how limited your chances at promotion are.  If you find that you have been passed over for advancement, your grammar, spelling, and sentence structure skills may be holding you back. The ability to write is necessary in the vast majority of salaried jobs and many hourly positions as well.

In this same survey, business owners expressed how important writing skills are. *

“My view is that good writing is a sign of good thinking. Writing that is persuasive, logical, and orderly is impressive. Writing that’s not careful can be a signal of unclear thinking.”

“…writing appears to be a “marker” attribute of high-skill, high-wage, professional work. This is particularly true in sectors of the economy that are expanding, such as services, and the finance, insurance, and real estate sectors.”

” writing is also a “gatekeeper.” The equity dimensions of the writing challenge are substantial. People who cannot write in the United States can clearly find employment. The findings of this survey, however, indicate that opportunities for salaried employment are limited for employees unable to communicate clearly.”

Statistics and quotations from Writing: A Ticket to Work…Or a Ticket Out, a report of The National Commission on Writing © 2004 by College Entrance Examination Board.  See for the full report.