Written Communication – Its growing importance over time
INTRO: The importance of Written Communication has grown by leaps and bounds with the advancement of Electronics, IT and Internet related technologies. It is a very effective means of expressing ones ideas and promoting an organisation’s products. It is a tool used widely and expressed beautifully in the maxim “Pen is mightier than the sword”. This adage has been used extensively by the Print media to highlight burning issues of the public. Effective written communication addresses a particular issue or theme and involves strong sentiments or sarcasm. Needless to mention that sentence structure need to be error free and spellings need to be correct.
Types of Communication:
- Verbal Communication
- Non-verbal Communication and
- Written Communication
- Verbal Communication: It is the sharing of information between individuals by using dialogue. Individuals working within a business need to effectively use verbal communication that employs readily understood spoken words, as well as ensuring that the enunciation, stress and tone of voice with which the words are expressed is appropriate.
- Non-verbal Communication: Behavior and elements of speech aside from the words themselves that transmit meaning. Non-verbal communication includes pitch, speed, tone and volume of voice, gestures and facial expressions, body posture, stance and proximity to the listener, eye movements and contact, dress and appearance etc.
- Written Communication: Communication by means of written symbols (either printed or hand written). It is a word based communication that takes place in a written form. The instruments of this type of communication are as follows:
- Written Instruction
- Journal etc.
The Historical development:
- The writing process first evolved due to economic necessity in the ancient times near the Far East. Archaeologist Denise Schmandt-Besserat determined the link between previously uncategorized clay “tokens” and the first known writing, cuneiform (is one of the earliest known forms of written expression, used in Persia and Assyria) around the 30th century BC.
- Clay tokens were replaced over time by the written documents to avoid the complexity of using the clay token.
- Writing is an extension of human language across time and space.
- Writing most likely began as a consequence of political expansion in ancient cultures, which needed reliable means for transmitting information, maintaining financial accounts, keeping historical records, and similar activities.
- Around the 4th millennium BC, the complexity of trade and administration outgrew the power of memory, and writing became a more dependable method of recording and presenting transactions in a permanent form.
- Researchers divide the progression of written communication into three revolutionary stages called “Information Communication Revolutions”
- During the first stage, written communication first emerged through the use of pictograms. The pictograms were made in stone, hence written communication was not yet mobile.
- During the second stage, writing began to appear on paper, papyrus, clay, wax, etc. Common alphabets were introduced and allowed for the uniformity of language across large distances. A leap in technology occurred when the Gutenberg printing-press was invented in the 15th century
- The third stage is characterized by the transfer of information through controlled waves and electronic signals.
Characteristics of Written Communication:
(i) Written communication is a creative activity that requires a lot of imagination and effort to arrive at the finished product. While oral communication is spontaneous, written communication is based on conscious effort. Let us take the example of a report that we want to present.
First, we all have to collect the necessary information, arrange it in a logical order and then write out very carefully. That is not always the case with spoken messages or other forms of oral communication. Letters and reports, nicely produced, reflect the image of the organisation. More creative and imaginative the writer, brighter is the image of the company.
(ii) Another important characteristic of written communication is the time factor that is involved in it. Oral messages, in a face-to-face situation or through telephone reach the receiver immediately and the feedback almost always comes immediately. This is not the case with written communication.
The sender has to plan out his message, viz., a letter or report carefully and encode it with great care. Then he/she sends it to the person for whom it is meant. The receiver takes his own time in decoding it. Then gives it careful thought or filters it through his mind and plans out his response. Sending back the reply or his comments on it will take some time. So it is to be kept in mind that written communication is a time consuming activity.
(iii) Thirdly, it is to be noted that written communication has fewer cycles than oral or face- to-face communication. Oral communication is a multiple cycle event. Oral messages get immediate response that leads very often to further exchange of words. This is not possible in written communication. Mostly it is a one-cycle event at a particular point in time.
Etiquettes in Written Communication:
While written communication affords greater flexibility, since it can be edited, both composed and read at leisure or at one’s pace, a great deal of care needs to be taken, in order to ensure its effectiveness. It can serve as a point of reference, which one can turn to time and again, thus creating a more lasting impact.
While writing, the following rules are to be remembered:
- FOCUS ON FORMAT
- The various formal writing forms have a pre-determined, universally accepted format that accompanies them. This format, which is largely based on universal writing conventions, serves to facilitate communication, by eliminating miscommunication that may result through random writing styles.
- Moreover, these formats are likely to change with time, due to the evolving nature of communication and/or technology.
- For example, the semi block format that was earlier used and relied upon for formatting letter writing has now given way to the full block format after the wide spread use of computers.
- STRUCTURING OF THE CONTENT
- Introduction, Body and Conclusion: While writing one should ensure that the content is well organized, with the overview/basic details comprising the introduction; all major points with their explanation and exemplification constituting the body (preferably divided into a separate paragraph each for every new point, with titles and subtitles, if necessary).
- ENSURING CONNECTIVITY
- The content that comprises a piece of writing should reflect fluency and should be connected through a logical flow of thought, in order to prevent misinterpretation.
- Moreover, care should be taken to ensure that the flow is not brought about through a forced/deliberate use of connectives, as this make the piece extremely uninteresting and unreadable.
- TEMPERING THE CONTENT AS PER THE LEVEL OF FORMALITY
- The level of formality that is shared between the sender and receiver should define the use of salutations, the vocabulary, the content, the format and even the medium.
- Though not integral to the matter communicated, this courtesy helps in creating a balanced impression about the communicator.
- STEERING CLEAR OF SHORT FORM
- People may not be aware of the meaning of various short forms and may thus find it difficult to interpret them. Moreover, short forms can at time be culture specific or even organization specific and may thus unnecessarily complicate the communication.
- IMPORTANCE OF GRAMMAR, SPELLING AND PUNCTUATION
- Improper grammar can at worst cause miscommunication and at the least result in unwanted humour and should thus be avoided. So too, spellings can create the same effect or can even reflect a careless attitude on the part of the sender.
- Finally, effective use of punctuations facilitates reading and interpretation and can in rare cases even prevent a completely different meaning, which can result in miscommunication. Therefore proper use of punctuations is required for smooth reading and correct understanding.
- SENSITIVITY TOWARDS THE AUDIENCE
- One needs to be aware of and sensitive towards the emotions, need and nature of the audience in choosing vocabulary, content, illustrations, formats and medium of communication, as discomfort in the audience would hamper rather than facilitate communication.
- IMPORTANCE OF CREATIVITY
- In order to hold the reader’s attention one needs to be creative to break the dullness of writing and prevent monotony from creeping in.
- This is especially true in the case of all detailed writing that seeks to hold the reader’s attention.
- AVOIDING EXCESSIVE USE OF JARGON
- Excessive use of jargon can put off a reader, who may not read further, as unlike a captive audience, the choice of whether to participate in the communication rests considerably with the reader.
- AWARENESS OF THE AUDIENCE/MEDIUM
- The medium needs to be chosen, as per its suitability to the audience/content, while the content would need tempering as per the medium/audience. For example, an elaborate message can be sent via a letter or an email, an sms etc, the same content may have to be heavily edited keeping the target reader’s in mind.
- Like all effective communication, good writing could be said to occur when the gap between ‘what one desires to say and what one is constrained to mean‘ is negligible or almost non-existent.
GOOD WRITING: Features
- Completeness: All information needed is provided in the write-up.
- Correctness: Only relevant and precise information is provided.
- Credibility: Support your argument with proof.
- Clarity: Should not be vague, confusing & ambiguous in the writings.
- Conciseness: To the point reply / response or writing.
- Consideration: Anticipate the reader’s reaction and write accordingly.
- Vitality: Use the active voice rather than the passive voice in the writings.
DIFFERENT WRITING STYLES
There are three types of writing styles:
- Colloquial language is an informal, conversational style of writing. It differs from standard English in that it often makes use of colourful expressions, slang, and regional phrases. As a result, it can be difficult to understand for a person from a different region or country.
- Casual language involves everyday words and expressions in a familiar group context, such as conversations with family or close friends. The emphasis is on the communication interaction itself, and less about the hierarchy, power, control, or social rank of the individuals communicating.
- Formal language In business writing, the appropriate style will have a degree of formality. It is communication that focuses on professional expression with attention to rules, protocol, and appearance. It is characterized by its vocabulary and the grammatical arrangement of words in a sentence. That is, writers using a formal style tend to use a more sophisticated vocabulary.
- Which style you use will depend on your audience, and often whether your communication is going to be read only by those in your organization (internal communications) or by those outside the organization, (external communications).
No matter what you are writing, a few things can create a negative first impression about your intelligence and your level of care, misspellings, grammatical mistakes, missed words, messy delivery and incomplete work.
Three-Step Writing Process:
- Keep objectives in mind and research the topic well.
- Think about the audience and write accordingly.
- Outlining ideas helps organize thoughts and write in logical order.
- Follow your outline, use your handbook
- Inspiration is acceptable but must be carefully reviewed
- Use the interview approach to supplement the outline (who, what, where, when, how)
- Reread your work
- Be critical of your own work
TYPES OF WRITING
- Letters and Memos
- Promotional Material
- Academic Documents
- Research (scientific) manuscripts
- White Papers
Written communication has emerged as the most important method of conveying ideas and thoughts not only for the individual but also for big and small business organisations. What one writes will define and differentiate you as a professional of good standing in front of your colleagues and superiors. The content is to be sent across via appropriate communication method to the recipient. Eliminating excessive or gibberish communication will improve your workflow. Mastering these skills will improve your ability to communicate better and augment your career.