Five easy ways to improve writing in your organisation

Posted on 31 January 2014 by Lucy Gregory


Tip 1: hold back on the red pen

An employee submits a piece of work to you. The technical content is fine but the writing could be better. Before you crack out the red pen, consider the following:

  • Say thank you and praise the work. No one likes being criticised, even if it’s justified. And remember, it’s
    easier to edit than to produce a first draft.

  • Make minimal comments. The document might never be perfect, and your ‘stylistic’ changes probably
    aren’t necessary.

  • It’s not enough to point out problems; you need to explain them. Otherwise, how can your employee
    learn for next time?

  • We learn more effectively through experience than by being told the correct answer. Once you’ve explained
    the problems, let your employee revise the document – you might not need to rewrite it after all.


Tip 2: encourage reference books

How many of your employees have access to a dictionary?

If writing is important to your organisation you should encourage staff to look things up. It’s one of the easiest ways to eliminate careless mistakes, particularly those flying beneath the radar of a spell-check. There are plenty of online resources available too – just make sure the ones you choose are reputable.


Tip 3: invest in writing training

Well, I would say this. But writing is a professional skill like any other and there’s no reason why your staff should miss out on training in this area.

Whether you offer the course in-house or hire a training company like Attica, training is a sensible way to develop writing skills.


Tip 4: don’t rely on writing software

Writing software will calculate the ‘readability’ of a document, highlight common stylistic problems and suggest changes.

It sounds great, but often the changes are gibberish. You still need to review the document and amend where necessary. By the time you’ve done this, it’s not such a quick fix after all.

Finally, even if the software does its job reasonably well, your employees won’t gain any skills from using it.


Tip 5: lead by example

Juniors learn from those above them. If the old guard are stuck in their ways, positive changes lower down the ranks will reverse in no time.

So if you’re at the top of the tree and really want to improve writing in your organisation, get with the programme! Join the training sessions being delivered to your staff, and see what they’re learning. You might even pick up some tips yourself!