Now that most of us are working from home, we’re relying on our writing skills more than ever before to communicate with colleagues and clients.
Without facial expressions and body language, however, it’s easier for misunderstandings and mistakes to happen.
For starters, most of us are susceptible to what psychologists call negative bias – which is when we misinterpret what’s written and assume it’s ruder or worse than it is (human nature being what it is, we have a tendency to think the worst).
This is why if your writing isn’t conversational (and let’s face it, most business writing isn’t) then it can give a bad impression.
A few months ago, for example, I met someone face to face and was surprised by how nice he was. Up until then I only received emails and text messages from him that were so curt and brusque that I genuinely and mistakenly thought he was being rude.
On the other hand, being too polite can lead to you seeming insincere and it can waste people’s time if it means they have to wade through banal small talk to find out what the important message actually is. When a colleague receives an email from you, it’s a safe bet they don’t want to know your opinion about the weather.
Bad writing also makes it easier for colleagues to misunderstand what you’re trying to say – or what you’re asking them to do.
Then, when misunderstandings do happen, they’re often not corrected. People often feel less comfortable asking questions over email than face to face, and they’re often less likely to gain second opinions from other people.
In tough times, it’s more important than ever that we communicate simply and clearly. That’s why Winston Churchill was so obsessed about having everyone write in plain English while he was prime minister – because at that time England was at war, times were desperate, and he couldn’t afford to have his staff make mistakes or take longer than necessary to understand each other.
So even if you’re feeling stressed, anxious and distracted at this time – and most of us are – remember to take a deep breath, relax, and think about how you would say something to someone face to face – because that’s how you should write to them.
Now, more than ever, is the time when we should be writing simply and clearly.
Want to learn more?
The Writing Essentials online course will teach you how to make your writing clear, compelling and easy to read.
It’s suited for anyone who wants to improve their writing – whether it’s for marketing, journalism, blogging or public relations. It’s also ideal for those who want to improve their general writing skills.
It teaches all the basics – from how to make sentences punchier right through to how to structure copy.
You can study whenever you want, at your own pace.
It costs US$140.Find out more and enrol