Working on Writing Better

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Technical professionals write code, test plans, requirements documents, and documentation. They write blogs. They write countless email messages. They certainly tweet a lot. But quantity doesn’t equate to quality. According to Sue Shellenbarger in this Wall Street Journal video, employers say the grammar skills of people they hire are getting worse:

Toni Bowers, a TechRepublic and career management blogger, maintains that if you think written communication skills aren’t important for tech pros, you’re wrong. As someone who has done a lot of hiring, she adamantly refuses to hire anyone who can’t write well, saying, “I don’t want any of my employees embarrassing me in a poorly written memo or report.”

Interestingly, this post generated dozens of responses from people who commiserated about the time wasted trying to read poorly written email.

If you want to improve your writing, help is everywhere. Enter “writing” into the Amazon search box and you’ll generate close to 500,000 results. And, you can find tips all over the web. Jodi Gilbert, for example, offers five tips that she says will improve your writing “a thousand percent.”

Despite this extreme claim (which, in any case, illustrates how to write a title that grabs attention), the tips—such as eliminating embellishments, using apostrophes correctly, and taking care with commonly confused words (such as “it’s”/“its” or “accept”/“except”)—are worthwhile. She urges people to avoid meandering and get to the point.

Grammar tips abound on the web, and you can get your grammar fix in large doses, small doses or a little each day. And not surprisingly, numerous apps are available to help with everything from spell check to organizing your ideas to page layout and desktop publishing.

No time for the above? Then, at a minimum, focus on making your email messages relevant, timely, and easy to digest. Your recipients will be most appreciative. And, as this Inc. column points out, a well-crafted email message can help you make a persuasive case.

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Naomi Karten

Naomi Karten is a writer and speaker who draws from her background in both psychology and IT. Naomi's recent books are Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals and Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change. Readers have described her newsletter, Perceptions and Realities, as lively, informative, and a breath of fresh air. Naomi is a regular columnist for StickyMinds.com.