A great article on eHow.com. I thought about writing a guide myself but Ryn said it succinctly. Check it out.
About Effective Written Communication Skills
by Ryn Gargulinski, eHow Contributor
The world has gone high-tech and people communicate through a number of media. Even though the devices used may be top of the line, not everyone’s written communication skills match up. A number of aspects need to be kept in mind when you send out written correspondence:
- Written correspondence runs the gamut from a simple email to an applicant’s cover letter used to apply for a job. It also includes press releases, newsletters, news stories, columns, commentary, photo captions and a whole lot more. Effective written communication skills start with using the proper format for the type of correspondence you want to send. For instance, a cover letter should be set up like a business letter, containing the elements found therein, such as date, return address and a body of the letter offset by the salutation and closing.
- The purpose of your communication should be clear from the beginning. “I am writing to inform you of your raise. You will be making $15,000 more every year,” is an effective opening. This one is not: “Our company has a tremendous increase in revenue. We have amassed more than $53 billion in sales in the past month alone. We have added 460,000 new clients and….” Why are you telling me this? Cut to the chase.
- Think Hemingway, not Faulkner, when it comes to sending out effective communications. Ernest Hemingway was known for his short sentences and very short stories. William Faulkner, on the other hand, would go on and on, often including myriad thoughts in a single sentence and, even if the grammar and spelling were impeccable, it would only serve to make the reader work very hard to get to the point (kind of like the sentence you just read). Keep everything as concise as possible.
- There is no excuse for sending communications that contain spelling errors and poor grammar. Even if you use the most eloquent writing and poetic turns of phrases, you are going to give the impression that you are a dolt. Always have someone proofread your work, if possible, before sending it out. She could catch obvious mistakes you may be missing or do not even know are mistakes.
- The tone of the correspondence also goes a long way in making it effective. It’s imperative to match the tone to the audience. Cover letters for job openings, corporate communications and even e-mails to your boss should be wholly professional. “Hey, Dude, Would you like to hire me?” just won’t cut it for such situations. Likewise, your friends will think you’re nuts if you start a note with: “Dearest John P. DoeIII, How art thou?”