By the time we start our first job, we will have written billions of words. But does our primary, secondary or even tertiary education really train us for the kind of communications we need to write at work?
Identifying common writing pitfalls
Rather than focusing on the result you wish to achieve from the communication, there is a temptation to write the way we think we ‘should’ write or the way we believe our boss wants us to write. If this is at odds with what the reader needs, we risk a breakdown in communication.
Another common pitfall is to simply ‘dump’ the information on the page. Although the content may be relevant, the communication is likely to be poorly structured with long and verbose sentences that are difficult for the reader to understand.
Recognising when you need help
When deciding whether to contract a professional writer, consider the following questions:
- Are you producing publications for the public?
- Do you need to make policy, procedure or other documents more readable or transparent?
- Does the communication have an impact on health and safety of employees, clients or visitors?
- Do you need to communicate complex or technical information to a lay audience?
- Do your readers have English as a second language or is the communication going to be translated into another language?
- Are you short of time?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, it is worth investigating the option of an external professional writer or editor.
Avoiding the pitfalls
There are many writing pitfalls a professional writer or editor can help you avoid. If you are not getting the results you need, but you don't know why, a professional writer or editor can assess the communication and help you pinpoint problem areas.
If you’re not sure whether you need a professional writer or editor, ask them to do an initial appraisal of the communication or show you several ‘before’ and ‘after’ examples. From there, you can discuss the results you wish to achieve from your communication, how the writer or editor can help you and what their fee will be for the project.
You might be surprised at how many communication flaws a professional writer or editor will uncover. A plain English writer or editor can add enormous clarity to your communications, leading to better results and increased productivity and efficiency.