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Excellent Writing Skills: A Workplace Must

Often times, the written word is the only form of communication for daily office instruction. If you are unable to explain yourself in a clear and sufficient manner, it may slow down the process of getting things done. On a personal note, if you are unable to write correctly you may end up losing respect in the workplace. In the workplace, there is always a debate of long vs. short emails. However, the appropriate length for an email should be determined by audience and purpose. Employees on their blackberry phones would most likely prefer shorter emails following the skeleton:

“Hi, how are you?” Hope all is well. I am emailing you because a, b, and c. And here is why.”

It is best to always be clear and to the point. However, there are times a more lengthy email can be justified. When in need of a crucial piece of information, instruction or when going through a transition phase in a project or within administration, a more lengthy email can be justified. In such scenarios, in order to assure that you still have your audience’s attention, try breaking the email up into short paragraphs, lists and bullets.

According to an article by Forbes, your main idea should be in your first paragraph. Before writing the email, ask yourself what you want the person to do as a result of your email. Through the process of editing, you should make sure to use plain English. The use of active verbs can make your email more direct and clear as well. For example, “are taught,” is a passive verb, “teaches,” is an active verb. Mignon Fogarty, author and creator of Quick and Dirty Tips™ cites common grammar mistakes to be avoided in business writing. Top three easily avoidable grammar mistakes include the following:

  1. Subject-Verb agreement: Whether the subject is singular or plural determines the number of the verb
  • Singular form after nobody, someone, everybody, neither, everyone, each and either
  • Plural form after words such as “they.” (They are coming.)
  1. Know when to use That vs. which
  • Use “That” before a restrictive clause. A restrictive clause includes information you cannot get rid of without changing the meaning of the whole sentence.
    • “Documents in that green folder.”
    • Use which to simply add more information, making something a restrictive clause.
      • Ex: “The grant application, which is in the zip drive.”
  1. Affect vs. effect:
  • Affect: a verb meaning to influence
    • Ex: “Your ability to communicate affects your productivity.”
    • Effect: a noun meaning result
      • Ex: “The rain had no effect on our meeting.”

Sources: The Elements of Style (William Strunk and E.B. White), The Associated Press Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style and Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Mignon Fogarty)

Priyanka Oza is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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