The Workplace Writing Workshop
The Workplace Writing Workshop
The Workplace Writing Workshop is a three-hour training course that focuses on enhancing your written communication skills in the workplace. Learn tips, tricks, and techniques that immediately improve your business writing skills.
Learn to define your audiences and communicate appropriately and craft focused sentences and paragraphs.
Utilize writing tools that deliver clear and concise messages.
Create a culture of professionalism with positive language.
Recognize and apply the sentence- and paragraph-level qualities of successful business writing.
These prescriptive techniques augment the participants’ existing style and process. The course is taught as a combination of presentation and workshop and allows time for review.
Outcomes The course’s purpose is to provide participants with the skills they need to write more effectively.
Workshops consist of fewer than 12 participants to allow sufficient time for effective interaction with each other and with the instructor to address individual concerns. The course is designed to provide valuable content to developmental writers and professional writers alike. Participants who write daily as part of their job will benefit the most from this workshop as they will be able to integrate new skills and approaches into their existing skillset immediately.
“This workshop is great for non-writers and a wonderful refresher for even the most experienced writers.”
Stephanie G, (Internal Communications Manager, Michigan)
“It is great to go through examples and exercises as a team to learn from each other and see how there are different options. It was very interactive and relaxed – you also made it fun with your interaction with the audience.”
Darla S. (Human Resources Manager, Ohio)
“The course was very professional yet not overly rigid or demanding in the expectations of the students. I feel the information that the instructor needed to get across came across in a professional manner yet the instructor was very cordial and kept the class entertaining.”
Dan M. (Police Lieutenant, Ohio)
The Research Behind the Workshop
Business communication is most effective when it is clear and accurate.
Clear writing is easier for us to read and easier for us to understand. The academic fields of psycholinguistics and psychology tell us that unfamiliar words like “commence” and “incentivize” are much more difficult for our brains to process than their simpler equivalents “start” and “reward” (Bailey). Yet at work, our written communication remains a mess, despite the academic research—and common sense—that shows that simple is better.
The research is in, and the consensus is this: when people write at work, they don’t do it very well… and it is costing companies billions.
American businesses spend around $3.1 billion every year on training courses designed specifically to correct bad writing habits. Some of this expenditure goes towards developing in-house training programs to fix those habits, and some is spent on hiring outside help to deliver on-site training.
Corporations acknowledge systematic problems with the quality of their employees’ writing—and they are keen to fix it.
This report outlines the problems associated with poor writing in the workplace, the benefits of improved writing skills, and suggestions for onsite workplace writing training solutions to close that gap.
The Cost of Poor Workplace Writing
Unclear writing frustrates readers
It is challenging to write clearly, but reading unclear writing is far harder. When we read quickly-written and unedited emails from coworkers, their message is often obscured. Spelling and grammar problems the first thing we see, but they are often just at the surface of a deeper issue that plagues workplace writing: A lack of claritry.
Poorly structured sentences and paragraphs are difficult for us to decipher, hard for us to parse… and an absolute chore to read. Spelling and grammar issues are a symptom of the problem, not the root cause: Clarity is.
Unclear writing makes readers quit reading
When reading for pleasure, we are able to skip writing that makes us work too hard or labors the point. At work, however, we absolutely cannot afford that luxury. There are messages that we need to understand buried deep in those convoluted paragraphs and sentences. The stakes are high, and when it becomes the readers job— not the writer’s—to decode the communication to find the “important” parts of the message, something has to change.
Uncelar writing obscures the message
f we are exhausted by struggling through a colleagues paragraph, how must our clients feel? At best, poor workplace writing is an annoyance. At worst, it damages client and coworker relationships. Because of these high stakes, it is tempting to respond to those emails with harsh corrections. Perhaps, you think to yourself, you could firmly ask the writer to please, please use the in-built spelling and grammar checking tools that are available on nearly every email application or word processor. We become frustrated and impatient with them because poor writing impedes our ability to understand what could potentially be a very important message.
Unclear writing wastes time
Every time a communication fails to convey the message and you need to reply or call to ask for clarification, it wastes time. When you need to ask for a third round of revisions on a report to address problems with the way it is written, it wastes time. If you need to speak with a client who is concerned because something they received was unclear, it wastes time. Most businesses and organizations base their productivity—and their bottom line—on efficiency. Unclear writing kills efficiency.
Unclear writing kills opportunity Your business may lose clients and your department may lose credibility, but for employees with writing deficiencies there are career-stunting implications: 86 percent of companies will not promote staff who cannot write clearly.
The Benefits of Effefctive Workplace Writing
Clarity enhances client perception
Clients are impressed by clear, direct communication. Writing that focuses on the reader’s needs in correspondence and promotional materials is the sign of a company that prides itself on the details. New business and existing clients alike are constantly forming opinions of the people they deal with. A company-wide adoption of clear language affects those opinions directly. Clarity drives mutual respect.
Accuracy establishes trust and creates lasting relationships
The longest-standing client relationships are built on trust. Relationships built on trust are also the most rewarding. These long-term professional relationships are borne from shared knowledge and clear communication in the context of the appropriate level of formality. Perhaps your client prefers professional salutations and stilted sign-offs, or maybe you exchange brief, friendly emails with them, replete with emoji and personal familiarity. Regardless of the tone of your communication, the tenets of clarity and accuracy still stand. Accuracy improves client relationships and builds trust.
Directness fosters direct and intelligent communication
In professional writing, “simple and direct” is not synonymous with “simplified.” Often the most complex ideas benefit the most from clear and deliberately structured writing. Industry jargon and technical terms are vital aspects of a shared discourse community. By framing that language in a structured and direct way, clients will value your expertise more because they understand it on the first read. Directness highlights intelligent communication.
Positive writing elevates culture and improves morale
Professional communication is not a transfer of data. It’s a sharing of ideas, directions, concerns, and instructions. Emphasizing what is possible rather than what is not possible encourages colleagues, managers, and subordinates to speak more freely and more confidently while defining boundaries and maintaining a professional tone. This open dialogue allows for more successful morale initiatives to develop, eliminates anxieties and concerns, and removes limits on employees’ potential. Positive writing drives conversations forward instead of stopping them.
Effective writing mitigates miscommunication
A clear email does not need to be clarified. A well-written assignment does not invite constant back-and-forth to discuss intricacies. Precise writing reduces the potentially high financial costs of miscommunication and reduces downtime. It brings everyone involved together to focus on the task. Effective writing eliminates confusion.
What Employers Want
When surveyed about what areas of their employees’ writing is the most important in terms of professionalism, managers agree almost unanimously that accuracy and clarity are the most important skills a writer should possess. The figure below shows how these two characteristics of workplace writing trump spelling, punctuation, and grammar; conciseness; and visual appeal.
Accuracy refers to the correct usage of words and phrases. Common usage errors are often related to issues of tone and a lack of audience awareness. To avoid issues of accuracy, extensive reflection and editing is required, and writers can benefit from the input of colleagues and peers.
Clarity refers to uncluttered language that is easy to read and understand and gets right to the heart of the matter. If sentences and paragraphs are hard to follow then readers will happily skim them, or skip sections entirely. Unclear writing can cause problems when discussing important matters that require definitive instructions or answers. The use of writing tools such as active voice and parallel structure can help make writing more clear
Spelling, punctuation and grammar can be rectified with the sophisticated spell-checking and grammar-checking tools in most word processing and email applications. Writers can also confer with peers about specific grammar issues that these applications cannot manage accurately.
Conciseness refers to a balance of completeness and brevity. Employers prefer writing that gets to the point quickly and doesn’t cloud the message with irrelevant details, repetition, or redundancies. Reflection and editing combined with techniques for editing sentences down for brevity can help here too. Research on sentence combining and pattern practice indicates that specific training exercises can significantly improve concision and develop the writer’s awareness of the problem.
Visual appeal is considered the least important aspect of written communication, but it does still play an important role. By dividing chunks of text into paragraphs and summarizing those paragraphs with topic sentences the body of text produced is much more visually appealing.