Business Communication Skills Training Linked to Three Foundations of Effective Writing Skills
“Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.” ~Anonymous high school essay.
It’s impossible to know whether that young man or woman will ever make a dime at the craft of writing, but you have to appreciate the precision, don’t you? Pithy analogies clearly aren’t his or her strength, but details matter a lot.
Those are the sorts of young minds I had the pleasure of working with recently at the Energy Department in Washington, D.C. As brand-new hires, six scientists and engineers spent two days with me on the basics of clear, concise writing. Not a one of them had had a writing class in college, but along the way they reinforced a valuable lesson when it comes to putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard how to write a cause and effect essay .
First, we had to get over a looming obstacle – what to write about. Writing exercises are most productive and least daunting when the topic is familiar to participants. At settings like the Energy Department’s Environmental Management Office, which supervised their communication skills training, that would mean writing about cleaning up radioactive waste sites.
A Peruvian-born lady who had so little faith in herself and her command of English did a bang-up job describing vitrification – turning nuclear waste into glass. A young engineer from Michigan wrote an unambiguous argument for an employee drug-testing program and described how a hypothetical small business dealing with potentially dangerous substances could put it in place. What lubricated the process for him was calling on details he’d picked up in a college class and putting himself in the place of the hypothetical reader – in this case a business owner who was skeptical about drug testing.
“The best style is the style you don’t notice.” That’s how the novelist Somerset Maugham described writing that works. The world of business communications is no different. Effective writers get their points across concisely without calling attention to the way they write. The reader understands what is being conveyed – questions, answers to questions, a call to action, a persuasive point – in one reading.
I travel widely to do writing skills training and media and presentation skills training for clients ranging from the U.S. Coast Guard to the Red Cross to the Department of Homeland Security to the Veterans Administration to the National Nuclear Security Administration to Navy SEALs to senior executives at a variety of federal agencies to businesses that need help with technical writing and written sales proposals.