Whether you are aware of it or not, the fact of the matter is, you are judged on your writing ability and written communication. Your grammar, vocabulary, spelling and ability to get a point or message across is either respected or scoffed at. Your friends, coworkers, and customers might not say anything to your face, but they silently approve or disapprove of how you write.
Your written communication in the workplace has always been important, but in this new remote work era, when face-to-face interactions and relationship-building looks to be off the table for some time to come, what and how you write is vital to your interpersonal and professional success. Below are 4 ways to level up your written communication when working remotely.
Never Stop Building Your Vocabulary
So much of writing well is choosing the right word to express a thought or idea. This means having wide-ranging vocabulary and terminology in your lexicon so that your writing is fluid, meaningful and easy to understand. One way to make sure that you are always improving to this end is to make it entertaining.
There are myriad vocabulary building applications out there that use things like “word of the day” messages and prompts to help you, little by little, build your vocabulary, but there are also games like Scrabble and others that help you learn and use new words while making the process entertaining. If you choose to go the Scrabble route and find yourself struggling to put together winning combinations right off the bat, consider using a word unscrambler to give you a boost.
Always Be Reading
To be a good writer you have to read, plain and simple. Reading others exposes you to language and syntax that you may be unfamiliar with, adding to your stock of grammatical and vocabulary knowledge. Over time, you either subconsciously commit new language skills gained via reading to memory, or you can make an effort to write down and look up new words, phrases and expressions.
Writing and reading are inextricably linked so to do one well, you need to be adept at the other. In this way, reading and writing work in a mutually-reinforcing fashion. This doesn’t mean you need to be reading exclusively industry-related material either. Fiction and completely unrelated non-fiction help you develop your language abilities too.
Clarify and Ask for Clarification
Even people with great writing skills want to make sure that they are understood. Communicating via messaging platforms like Slack make working remotely and with international teams easy, but there is always room to make sure others have understood what you are saying and, conversely, that you understand what others are trying to tell you.
When providing instructions or relaying important information to coworkers, a good communicator always makes sure the message was received by asking things like “does that make sense?” or “is it clear what I am saying here?” This is especially important when you are working on multicultural teams and with people who may not have English as their first language. Phrasing clarification requests this way shifts the responsibility onto you, the speaker, and can make it less intimidating for non-native speakers and writers.
Know Your Audience
The last good thing that all good communicators, written or otherwise, do is always keep their audience in mind. Your audience dictates the kind of language and jargon you use, how you address the other party or people, and the level of formality or informality with which you write.
There are times when you are addressing a coworker–perhaps from a different department or division–who may not be familiar with the terminology and shorthand that you use in your day to day communication with your fellow team members. You might be addressing a client for the first time, or one you are just getting to know, and understanding how to keep communication friendly, yet formal is key.
Whether you are applying for a job or you are looking to level up your written communication in your current position, there are things you could be doing right now and moving forward to help you stand out as an exemplary written communicator. Keep the above tips in mind and you will continue to hone one of the most important soft skills in the remote work era.