Internal communications can be the dust bunnies beneath a company’s couch. Most employees assume that “outsiders” will not see them. So internal exchanges don’t receive as much care as external communications. Yet the result can cause discomfort.
Is your team’s internal writing a source of pride for you? When you open one of their e-mails, do you think, Atta girl, Hortense! No? Let’s change the situation. Three principles will improve the quality and banish the dust bunnies.
1. Teach your team to write simply.
That sounds so, well, simple. But something odd happens to employees when they write at work. They fall into believing that they have to sound different, wiser, and more endowed with huge vocabulary words than usual. Confusion results.
William Faulkner’s writing merits careful study and analysis. An internal e-mail should require neither. Someone requesting timely feedback should say it quickly, adding something friendly at the start or end. “Good morning! Please send me your feedback on this proposal by 3 p.m. on Thursday so we can include it in the final edit.”
Such a sleek e-mail does not acquire dust on the way to its recipient. And with a personal touch attached, it won’t come across as pushy or curt.
Simple writing means a clear subject line, a read-it-once message, and action items that pop.
2. Teach your team to write concisely.
During a business writing workshop I once taught, a young accounting firm employee blurted, “But if I write clearly and concisely, they’ll think they’re paying me too much!” His formal, wordy style was his smokescreen against a perception that he wasn’t worth his salary.
His quaint conviction was not helping his reputation, however. No one ever storms into an employee’s cubicle complaining that the e-mail was too easy to understand. No manager fumes over understanding a writer’s point on one reading. Conciseness is a talent worth honing in a business environment drenched in words.
Concise writing means informative subject lines, a clear message in as few words as possible, and a focus kept tightly on one subject.
“Thu’s 10am mtg changed to 11am this wk only” is a much more helpful subject than “Meeting change.” It even allows you to leave the body of the e-mail blank: adding “END” at the end of the subject line will make it plain your message is over. No, that will not make anyone sad.
3. Learn and address their specific needs for internal communications.
Before choosing a business writing training program, do a bit of research.
- How much time are your team members investing in written internal business communications each day?
- Where do they struggle the most? Getting started? Developing a focus? Organizing content? Ask.
- What skills for business writing would they like to have?
- What would solid improvement look like?
With their answers, you can find a tailored business writing program that vacuums all of those dust bunnies out from under the communications couch. Good riddance! Good job!