Join Doug Rose for an in-depth discussion in this video Using clear language, part of Project Management Foundations: Communication.
The famous author Steven King wrote 2000 words or 4 and a half pages every day. He could finish a novel in 3 months. You won't need that level of skill, but the first step to writing clearly is getting words on the page. Some people effortlessly put words on a page, they will sit in front of a computer and write clear sentences. But those people are rare, they should be envied but not copied. Most of us either write badly or spend a lot of time rewriting. A warning sign that you're writing badly is that people don't understand what you're saying.
You might find yourself making excuses if someone misses your point, you might say they were busy or weren't paying attention. So try to follow up with all your documents to make sure you were understood. You might also get an email that asks questions that show your reader didn't understand. If this is pattern, you should think about how much time you're spending on your writing. If you write clearly, you will solve a lot of your communication challenges. A poorly written email or a confusing report will lead to follow up questions that might never be answered.
Just because something is written, doesn't mean that it's clear. You may want to look to improve your writing if your team is not responding or if your reports are not being read. One style that is very common in reports is writing ideas so they sound complex. You will see this with an overuse of "-ize" words. A sentence like, "Our department prioritizes "the system so we better utilize our resources." These "-ize" words usually hide simpler concepts. Some writers think the writing is more precise but it's really heavy and unclear.
Try to write short, clear sentences like: "Our department will make this our highest priority." Complex sentences don't make the idea sound more impressive. In fact, making a complex idea sound simple is impressive. If you can do that in your reports, then you'll be more helpful to your project. You can also use the "Spit, Polish, and Shine" approach when you write your reports. First, spit out everything you can think of into an open document.
Don't worry about grammar or even punctuation, just get it out. This will give you some material to start with. Spit out everything from the beginning to the end, that will give you a high level view of everything that will be included in your document. Second, walk away from your document, leave it alone, Either do something else or start another task. Wait as long as it takes to forget about what you're writing. Then go back for the polish. Read your document from beginning to end, move paragraphs so that there's a flow, add paragraphs for abrupt changes, answer your own questions.
The "polish" part is usually very difficult. Unless you're very talented, your spit out documents will be a cluttered mess. You'll probably spend a lot of time over explaining the most interesting parts of the documents. You might also spend too little time explaining what's not interesting. Your reader might not have the same interests, so you need to even things out. Try to carefully think about your assumptions. Who's your reader? Will this reader know this? Why is the reader interested in the document? The "polish" part of writing should be the part that takes the longest, so be sure to dedicate yourself to looking objectively at what you wrote.
Finally, you need to walk away from your document. You should take the biggest break between the "polish" and "shine." With the shine, you're trying to read the document as if you're looking at it for the first time. The shine will give you an idea of whether or not this is a poorly written document. The shine is where you really tighten things up. Many editors say that writers use too much text. They might duplicate ideas or sentences so look for sentences that are restatements. Some signs might be in the words themselves.
Look for phrases like: "in other words" or "in summary." These will often be unnecessary restatements. It's fine to use these phrases while talking but when you write, you can go back and change the words so there really isn't a need for these do-over sentences. You don't want to be saying that your first sentence was unclear, so here's a second one. The shine should remove all that unneeded material. If you use the "Spit, Polish, and Shine," you'll have a better chance of writing clearly without spending too much time staring at a blank page.
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- Using formal and informal means to communicate
- Prioritizing stakeholder needs
- Listening actively
- Planning project communication
- Understanding leadership language
- Writing clear and concise project reports
- Learning how and when to say "no"<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.