As an administrative professional, chances are that your job entails some form of writing – from meeting notes to memos to correspondence for your executive. And in order to preserve your professional reputation (and your company’s), you need to make sure your written communication skills are as close to perfect as possible.
For some people, writing comes incredibly easy. They are veritable wordsmiths, able to craft a carefully worded email at the drop of a hat, or submit an impeccable meeting report minutes after the boardroom is clear. For others, the thought of writing so much as a phone message can be anxiety inducing.
Whichever camp you’re in, there is always room for improvement. While these tried-and-true tips won’t turn you into Shakespeare overnight, they will help elevate your written communication skills and increase the value you bring to your executive and company!
1. Be Clear and Concise. As an admin, you’re busy – and likely, the person you’re writing to (or for) is busy, too. Make it easy on both of you by getting straight to the point. A simple greeting, followed by the reason you’re writing, and a pleasant closing is often more than enough for an email. If you’re taking minutes or writing reports, don’t include more information than necessary.
Use clear language to avoid miscommunications. For instance, if you’re on a tight deadline and need to request something from a colleague, communicate the exact details. “I need the Robertson file by 2 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, please.” is much clearer than, “If you have time, could you get me the Robertson file sometime next week?”
2. Use Technology. Technology is a wonderful thing. Spellcheck, auto-correct, and grammar check come standard with nearly every word processing program, and can help you identify mistakes, run-on sentences, incorrect word choices, and more.
Not satisfied with the status quo? Grammarly, a free online tool, can identify more than 250 types of errors, some that even Microsoft Word can miss. Simply copy and paste your text into the tool and you’ll be able to see (and fix) your mistakes. But the program goes beyond just correcting it for you – it explains why it’s wrong so you can avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
3. But Don’t Rely On Technology Alone. As great as technology is, you should never rely solely on what your computer screen tells you. These programs are machines, and they read your writing like a machine – but you’re writing for people.
It is always helpful to print a physical copy of your writing and proof it for errors and clarity. It also helps to read it aloud. Ask yourself, “If this document was sent to me with no prior knowledge of its content, would it make sense?” If the answer is no, then revise it.
4. Write for Your Audience. The level of formality you use in your writing is dictated by your relationship to the person you’re writing to. If you’re shooting a quick email to your friend Jennifer in accounting, “Hi, Jen!” may be a perfectly acceptable greeting. However, if you’re composing a draft of a memo to the company CEO on behalf of your executive, you’ll likely need something a bit more formal.
Take your cues from the correspondence you receive. Are their emails, notes, or memos typically conversational? Follow suit. Do they use a more formal tone and language? Try to keep your style in alignment with theirs.
5. Use a Template. At some point in your career, you might end up in uncharted waters on a writing assignment. Maybe your executive asks you to draft a letter of recommendation for a former employee or create a travel itinerary.
Whatever you’ve been asked to do, there’s a template for it! Microsoft Word has tons of templates built right into the program and even more on their website; if you can’t find what you’re looking for there, a quick Google search will likely give you plenty to choose from. While you’ll need to do some customization, a template can save you time, provide ideas and inspiration, and keep your communication consistent.
6. Keep a Journal. Whether you’re looking to develop your writing skills or just keep them sharp, journaling is one of the best ways to accomplish your mission. After all, practice makes perfect! Even if you’re just jotting down your thoughts in a spiral notebook before bed each night, you’re still taking steps to improve.
Be sure to read back through your previous entries every month or so. You’ll be surprised how much your writing improves just by taking the time to hone your skill.
As an administrative professional, your written communication skills need to go above and beyond a vague remembrance of Creative Writing 101 in college. When you consistently practice and hone your skills, you increase your value to your company, your executive, and your career!
Now it’s your turn! What writing advice do you have for your fellow admins? Let us in on your tried and true tips by sharing them in the All Things Admin Innovation Lab group on Facebook.
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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, and Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures.