2 Effective written communication
Two key elements of effective written communication are:
- knowing why you are writing, i.e. the purpose of the message
- knowing who you are writing for, i.e. your audience.
Once you’ve identified your purpose and your audience, the next stage is to pinpoint the key messages that you need to communicate.
Activity 2 Identifying key messages
Imagine that you are tasked with creating a poster for a charity bake sale in your office.
First, identify the audience and the purpose in the box below. Then list your key messages.
Finally, write the text that you would put on the poster. Don’t worry about layout etc. – just think about the words you would use to communicate the key messages to your colleagues in an appropriate style.
The audience is your colleagues in the office.
The purpose of the poster is to encourage people to either bake or buy cakes for the sale.
Key messages might include:
- the purpose of the event, i.e. a bake sale
- the date
- the time
- the location
- details of the charity involved.
What tone/language did you decide to use? The tone for a poster about a fun event at work can be considerably different to a notification of a formal meeting.
Did you come up with a headline that would catch their attention? If this exercise was real, images would also be a good way to make the poster eye-catching.
Activity 2 gave you the opportunity to consider audience, purpose and key messages. Then you started to look at the use of appropriate tone and language.
A document from a writer’s workshop at The University of Washington (no date) describes the following characteristics of effective language. It should be:
- concrete and specific, not vague and abstract
- concise, not verbose
- familiar, not obscure
- precise and clear, not inaccurate or ambiguous
- constructive, not destructive
- appropriately formal.
Many of these points are also reflected in the 7 Cs of communication that you looked at in Week 1 and could equally be applied to verbal communication as you become more experienced in using them.
In the next section, you’ll focus on one of the most common forms of written communication you’ll encounter in the workplace – the email.