Writing skills training: is it enough to prevent communication breakdown?

3 September 2019

Poor written communication is a piece of the puzzle often overlooked or misunderstood when investigating an error or non-compliance at work. Poorly written communications lead to confused staff and confused clients, with loss of income and damage to your reputation two potential outcomes.

If policies are written in old-style bureaucratic language, managers and team members may make inappropriate decisions; if procedures are unclear or difficult to read, the job may not get done as safely as possible; if reports are poorly structured and recommendations ineffectively worded, organisational change may be blocked.

Writing skills training is an important part of addressing written communication breakdowns in your organisation. But it’s not the whole solution. Coupled with individual weaknesses, there may be systemic writing issues that contribute to poor outcomes.

Do your organisation’s written communications pass the readability test?

Assessing readability of existing communications is a critical first step. Written communications must be clear, concise and focused on the needs of the reader (plain English). At a minimum, they must have:

  • a logical and coherent overall structure
  • an average sentence length of between 15 and 20 words
  • a high standard of grammar
  • 80 per cent or more active voice
  • effective use of headings and other easy reading devices.

If the organisation’s default writing style is old-school and bureaucratic, team members will imitate this style believing it's expected. This only perpetuates the problem. Creating an alternative default position of plain English writing for some organisations is a major change but it is achievable.

Do you have an organisational writing style guide?

Many organisations have a branding guide, but not a writing style guide. A writing style guide is important to set the standards for writing in your organisation. If inconsistency is an issue in your organisation, a writing style guide is the first step to addressing this so that you can present as a unified and professional team.

Do your team members have sound writing skills?

Many people begin work without ever having been trained in business writing. Their writing ability may not be apparent until after they begin work, particularly if their resumé and covering letter were prepared by a professional writer.

Writing workshops, supplemented by individual mentoring and coaching as needed, is essential to help team members:

  • adopt an appropriate style and tone
  • write clear and concise sentences using plain English for maximum impact
  • structure reports and other communications to create a logical flow
  • identify passive voice and convert passive voice to active
  • structure paragraphs and bulleted lists correctly.

Concise Writing Consultancy can help your organisation identify where written communications could be leading to poor productivity or undesirable outcomes. Our solutions encompass re-writing communications into plain English as well as developing style guides and delivering flexible approaches to writing skills training. 

To transform your written communications, find out about our 5-step Plain English transformation program. Contact Concise Writing Consultancy on 02 9238 6638.

For more information download our brochure Avoiding a Written Communication Meltdown

Return to Blog