Considering the audience. In addition to encouraging you to think clearly about the subject you are addressing, writing well requires consideration of the audience you want to communicate with. You need to adapt your style to their language, culture, interests and concerns. Good writing has coherent goals for what the author wants the audience to think, feel or do and is designed to fulfill those goals. Good business writing is not about self-expression, but about moving an enterprise forward. Moving other people is a key business skill regardless of your position.
Demonstrating understanding. One of Stephen Covey's famous habits of highly effective people is to "seek first to understand, then to be understood." But in building business relationships , just understanding is not enough. We need to demonstrate our understanding of those we engage with. They need to know that we really understand them. Good writing demonstrates the author's understanding of her audience, echoing their ideas, concerns and feelings. Because one of the most common complaints from business people about us is that we don't understand them, we need to make a special effort to do this.
Being understood. Of course, good writing leads to being understood by the audience. But writing well requires that all the other skills be applied to create that understanding. If you can't make yourself understood, it doesn't really matter how brilliant your ideas are, since they will be imprisoned in your head, delivering value to no one.
If you develop all of those skills, you will find a place in any business environment. The future of your technical career may just lie in mastering the fundamental skill of writing.
Paul Glen is a consultant who helps technical organizations improve productivity through leadership, and the author of the award-winning book Leading Geeks (Jossey-Bass, 2003). You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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