Written Communication

Clear and concise writing is hard to find these days.   Collectively we don’t know how to express our thoughts or meaning into the written word any more.

I had the good fortune to work under a passionate editor early in my career.  She provided meticulous feedback on everything I wrote and I am a better writer because of it.

I also benefited from a word count restriction that forced me to be very judicious with the words I used.  Think Twitter without emoticons or abbreviations.

When I came across this article recently I knew I had to share it immediately.  “Strong writing is lean writing.”  The author recommends cutting 10 words from your writing.  Below is one example.

1. Just: The word “just” is a filler word that weakens your writing. Removing it rarely affects meaning, but rather, the deletion tightens a sentence.

Cutting these words will change the way you express yourself in writing.  Give it a try and see what happens.




Accountability can be viewed as a four letter word, but it doesn’t have to be.  Applying structure and discipline to verbal and written communication will ensure everyone on a project are held accountable (including the project lead) and contribute to a successful outcome.  When it comes to verbal communication I have one rule that trumps all others: err on the side of over-communication.  I am not advocating communication for communication sake (see point #4). Below are some guidelines for effective project communication.

  • Schedule regular status updates
  • State your understanding of an issue or its status clearly and succinctly
  • Accept questions and comments on an issue-by-issue basis
  • Resist the temptation to over explain
  • Ask clarifying questions as needed
  • Reach closure before taking up a new issue
  • Reschedule meetings if too few stakeholders can attend

The guidelines above can establish a framework for effective face-to-face communication.  It holds the meeting facilitator accountable and gives the attendees an opportunity to understand the issues and share their thoughts.  When facilitating a meeting make it your goal to establish and maintain an open and patient atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable contributing.  Initially this will take more time.  It is better to have long discussions early in the project when you still have time to make changes.  If issues are not raised early in a project they may never get the attention they deserve or may be raised too late to act on.

Written communication may be more important than verbal communication.  Confusion is a likely result if the only record of a meeting is in a person’s memory or notebook.  True accountability only occurs when a record of meetings is kept and made available to all participants.  Failure to document questions, comments, and decisions invites problems.  I recommend creating a project plan or charter summarizing the intent of the project, its goals, process, and performance measures.  Another tool for effective communication is an action item log.  This log can be used to track a project’s status on an issue-by-issue basis, establish priorities, and record decisions.

Does this approach require discipline?  Yes.

Does it require planning? Yes, but what’s wrong with that?

Does this take more time?  Initially.

Will this instill confidence in participants? No doubt.

Will this increase the likelihood of a successful outcome?  Absolutely.

Is this guaranteed to work?  There are no guarantees.

Is the time investment worth it? My experience is yes!