Writing is an act of care for the reader

People quite often tell me they don’t write. They are psychologists or engineers or policy developers or managers or police officers or doctors and they don’t write.

But when I enquire about their work, I find they spend a good part of each day writing emails, reports, file notes, job ads, tenders, blogs, tweets, briefing notes, proposals, memorandums or customer letters.

Typically, people in white collar jobs spend at least a third of day writing.

When people tell me they don’t write, perhaps what they really mean is that it’s not the important thing about their jobs. They have useful things to do at work, and writing is usually the thing that stops me getting on with them.

It all matters

What I would like to persuade you of is that writing matters. All of it.

All those dull memos and reports help to describe and clarify the truth about situations. They help you think clearly and make decisions. They build relationships and trust between people.

They solve problems. They can be written well or badly. Writing badly is easy – just string together a bunch of buzz words or legal terms. Or toss off an angry reply to a tedious complaint from a customer. Or you could write down all the facts in your notebook, without any analysis or helpful recommendations.

Good writing means you make the effort to understand your reader and carefully craft words to make sense for them. Good writing is a deliberate act of care for the reader.

What’s the point?

So good writing is harder than bad writing and you’re a busy person. You ask whether it’s worth the extra time and effort.

A better question is whether it’s worthwhile writing at all if you don’t communicate clearly with your reader.

To me, every piece of writing, however routine, should illuminate. Writing takes muddle and darkness and confusion and brings clarity and enlightenment.

Not all of us can be great writers but we can all improve — and it can get easier. Italo Calvino, in Hermit in Paris, wrote ‘I write as well as I can on each occasion.’ This simple and beautiful goal is something we can all aspire to.

WriteBusiness is a small, highly experienced consultancy. With some trusted partners, I train, coach and mentor people in all kinds of workplaces to write as well as they can. And I keep doing it because I see the results.

Contact me for training, coaching or mentoring in writing and editing skills or try my writing fitness test to see if you need some help with writing.

Sandra Hogan| Director