Written Communication – Say It Like You Mean It
Whether you’re blogging to express yourself, writing advertising copy, or just trying to get your point across in a business email, written communication skills are pretty much necessary in today’s world.
We’ve got an interesting situation in the modern marketplace, though:
Much of our communication takes place online, and therefore, much of our communication today is in writing…and writing is hard.
Then again, most people don’t communicate particularly effectively while talking face to face, either, but that’s not the point.
If you want to improve your writing skills and get your point across more clearly, more quickly, and more powerfully, read on. I’ve got some pro writing tips for you.
Pro Tips For Better Written Communication
The easiest way to become a better writer is to write more.
Any time you work on a new skill – if you’re not good at it yet, writing is a new skill – you have to go through a learning period, and you’re going to suck at it until you learn.
Remember, there was a time when someone had to teach you how to brush your own teeth, use a fork without major injury, and even how to use a toilet. You sucked at that stuff for awhile, too, but you learned eventually.
Be willing to do a lot of terrible writing, and you’re already on your way to great written communication skills.
Here’s how you get better at communicating through writing:
1: Read. Read a LOT.
Good books are good because they effectively communicate complicated ideas through writing.
Contrary to popular belief, if you want to sound conversational and smooth, you do NOT write like you talk. You’re going to have to write a lot better than you talk.
You can develop “conversational” writing skills by essentially transcribing yourself talking about a subject and then improving it, or you can do it the fun way and read a bunch of books that you like.
Novels and nonfiction alike tend to be written more conversationally and less academically, because reading 100,000 words in APA style isn’t something that anyone wants to do, and people who write books would generally also like to sell those books.
Read whatever you like, and read a lot of it.
You’ll get an instinctive feel for the rhythm and the structure of written communication, you’ll naturally improve your spelling, and you’ll probably learn some other useful stuff along the way, too.
2: Write a Lot, Too.
Reading alone doesn’t develop your writing skills.
This might blow your mind, but…
If you want to get better at writing, one of the steps involved is writing. Shocking, I know.
You don’t have to write anything important. You definitely don’t have to write anything worth reading. One of the best things you can do is start a journal, because journaling is useful for far more than just writing skills.
Write every day.
It’s going to be hard when you start out, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. To give you a point of reference, since I blog professionally for my personal clients, my own blog, and at a digital marketing company, I spend a total of 4 to 10 hours writing every single day, and I frequently have to write about topics I personally find boring.
Once upon a time (not all that long ago) I couldn’t do that. My brain simply wouldn’t serve up words and remain creative for that much time.
The only reason I can write quality stuff all day, every day is because I wrote a lot of crappy stuff, even when I didn’t feel like it.
Go write your own crappy stuff, and you’ll get better.
3: Practice Empathy and Perspective
Practice your empathy skills the way you would practice the violin or throwing baseball pitches.
Very intentionally, pay attention to people around you. What are they feeling? Why are they feeling that way?
Here’s a gem from my mentor:
If you start to say “If I were you, I’d…” and the end of that sentence is anything other than “do and feel exactly what you are doing or feeling,” you’re completely wrong.
Think about it for a second.
If you were that person, you would have the exact combination of knowledge, experience, and ideas that led them to that point in time. If you were them, you would be them. The end. You wouldn’t be them with a different opinion about something.
Now, the trick is to get to the point where you can see from that person’s perspective without being them.
You know, because you can’t actually be them. You’re too busy being you.
Have a conversation with someone about one of their opinions, and then ask them as many questions as it takes for you to be able to see things clearly from their perspective.
It’s going to be harder than you think.
It’s also way more important than you know.
Step 1 to improving your written communication skills is to read more, so your homework today is to find a book to read.
Audiobooks are okay. I’m personally quite fond of audiobooks since I drive 3 or 4 hours out of every day, and audiobooks are the only way I can maintain my reading habit.
Fiction is perfectly fine, but be warned:
What you put into your brain is what comes out, so read books that are well written and positive.
If you’re not sure where to start, think of the movies that you’ve enjoyed over the past few years. A lot of them came from books, so pick a book that’s been adapted into an enjoyable movie!