Writing Effectively in the Workplace

The quality of your writing dictates how others perceive your skill level, especially in the workplace. Your company hired you because they believe you are an asset to the company. The quickest way to prove them wrong is by writing substandard company material. Increasing the quality of your writing will open your career to a milieu of opportunities.

A germane visual aid or multimedia element can help to drive your points home, but make sure all materials are ready to go prior to your presentation. If these materials are not prepared in time, go on without them.

Content and Structure

Writing effectively in the workplace does not involve bells and whistles. Be concise and convey an accurate message. You should use a straightforward structure with one unified train of thought. Delineate your points with starters like First, Next, and Finally, and do not make multiple points within the same paragraph without clear separation. Lousy organization will confuse and irritate the colleagues or supervisors who have to consult your writing.

If you rely on your word processing program’s spellcheck function to check for errors, eventually you will regret it. Imagine writing “The board will not vote” when you mean “the board will now vote,” or asking for a literal reading instead of a liberal one — not to mention the shame of using your instead of you’re.

Proofread your own writing before you send or print it. DO NOT, under any circumstances, trust grammar check. If you aren’t confident in your own proofreading abilities or simply want a second opinion, ask a colleague to skim the document. One technique many instructors recommend is to read your piece from the end to the beginning, sentence by sentence. This allows you to see more objectively instead of getting sucked into the narrative flow.

Planning for a Successful Presentation

If you suffer from stage fright, consider videotaping yourself as you rehearse your speech or presentation. Seeing yourself from an outside perspective will make it easier to see where you seize up, ramble on, or talk too quickly. Choose the best times to engage the audience, but follow the classic courtroom guideline: Never ask a question you don’t know the answer to. An irrelevant, obnoxious, or contradictory answer from an audience member can quickly derail your presentation. Only ask for ideas or a show of hands if you’re holding a brainstorming session or other open-ended gathering.

If you are a naturally active presenter, make sure your gestures and pacing are appropriate and reasonable. Do not force yourself to make hand gestures if it does not come naturally to you, and instead try to position yourself behind a podium or at a table where you can rest your hands comfortably. A germane visual aid or multimedia element can help to drive your points home, but make sure all materials are ready to go prior to your presentation. Do not fumble with your PowerPoint or Keynote slides, queue up an audio file, or collate a handout once you’ve started presenting. If these materials are not prepared in time, go on without them. Give your audience time to absorb anything you pass around, and leave time at the end for questions.