Written communication can make or break your career – Part 3

High-quality writing is a requirement for being a high quality professional. Outstanding writing can help make you an outstanding professional. You gain a competitive advantage in your career by improving your writing skills. Improve this skill and your work will be noticed and your e orts rewarded. Here are two scenarios to illustrate the point:

SCENARIO #1:

Your assignment is to document the current process for handling customer service inquiries for your organization and to recommend improvements in a written report. To gather the information you need for this project, you speak with the manager of the customer service department, interview the five most experienced employees of that department. In addition, you review over one hundred complaints that the department received about poor customer service responses and study a white paper written by your industry trade association entitled Best Practices in Customer Service.

After you’ve collected the data, underlined dozens of key facts and statistics and analyzed the research, you are ready to write the report. Now imagine this—you’ve broken your arm and are not able to compile the report yourself. Your manager arranges for you to collaborate with a colleague. Would you rather collaborate with your colleague, Bill, who majored in English or your colleague, Kimberly, who was a math major? Even though the underlying work, including your data and research, is the same, which team—you and the English major or you and the math major—will likely produce a higher quality, written report?

SCENARIO #2:

You and your co-worker are given similar assignments—analyze and then write a report about the products offered by your company’s top competitors in the marketplace. You research the available products, read online customer reviews, study media reports, and analyze all other publically- available information you can nd. You spend over 40 hours on research and analysis. By your estimate, your co-worker has spent about half that amount of time. While you were skipping lunch and eating dinner at your desk, he was taking long lunches and leaving the office at 5 p.m. every day. The deadline arrives and you each submit your written reports. Your report is ten pages long and includes twelve graphs. Unfortunately, it also includes two typos and a few grammatical errors.

The deadline arrives and you each submit your written reports. Your report is ten pages long and includes twelve graphs. Unfortunately, it also includes two typos and a few grammatical errors. Your colleague writes a ve-page report with three key graphs, an executive summary, and no typos or grammatical errors. Which report will be more favorably judged? What assumptions will people make about the quality of the research that went into writing each report? What will people assume (rightly or wrongly) about the underlying skills of the person who wrote each report?

During the course of a single year, you could be called upon to write many reports, dozens of presentations, and thousands of emails, letters, and other correspondence. It’s not hard to see that if your written communication regularly contains grammatical errors and punctuation mistakes, is excessively wordy, or fails to effectively communicate the main idea, your performance appraisals will be negatively impacted.

Your written communication will leave a lasting impression. Emails are read, then re-read, and forwarded. Mistakes in grammar, punc- tuation, and spelling will leave a negative impression among your co-workers, bosses, and clients. In some ways, written communication is more hazardous than verbal communication because it leaves behind a trail of evidence and may cement a negative impression of you.

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