How to Clearly Communicate in Writing

Have you ever gotten an email from someone, read it over two or three times and still can’t figure out what they want you to do – if anything?

Too often, people bury the “call to action” somewhere in the middle of the message or are so darned vague that it’s hard to figure out the main objective.

Wouldn’t it be great if they started their paragraph with what they wanted you to do, then give you all the reasons or backup justification after that?

It’s understandable folks don’t want to come across as a bully or overly directive. We’ve all been schooled in how to be careful with email because it’s easy to sound harsh. But it’s also easy to confuse others when we’re not clear with what we’d like them to do.

Journalists are taught to put the most important stuff up front just in case their editor needs to shorten up the article. They’ll try to remove content from the middle or bottom and that way won’t destroy the main message.

So before you start to write, ask yourself, “What’s the most important thing I want this person to know or do?”

Start off stating your main objective and you’ll reduce the biggest frustration people have with email and other written forms of communication.


Slow Down for Maximum Improvement

“Creep” is the word now used to describe an addictive tendency to add just one more thing to our annual list of goals and objectives. While it’s important to strive for aggressive improvements, serious fallout occurs when we plan with little regard to systems capacity, training capabilities and human capital. The results:

  • Our plan looks good on paper but drives people to the brink of desperation and exhaustion in an effort to get it all done. Some will choose to “bug out” and you end up with a team of walking dead.
  • Errors! Just as research shows diminished mental capacity occurs when trying to drive and talk on a cell phone at the same time, the brain can only handle so many thingsĀ  at once.
  • Cumulative stress that results in higher absentee rates, accidents, and employee turnover. The economy may be keeping your people in place right now, but that could end. We’re already seeing a labor shortage in some skill sets due to baby boomer retirements and shrinking numbers of qualified job candidates.
  • Organizational reputation will suffer if the word gets out that you “chew ’em up and spit ’em out.” Surveys show that workers would rather stay with a company with an excellent reputation than receive a higher salary from a company with a poor reputation.


  • Take a look at what you have accomplished this year with an eye toward what you should have NEVER attempted in the first place and why.
  • Draft up your “wish list”, then analyze the resources you have in place to achieve each objective. What “soft” and “hard” costs will you incur to get it all done?
  • Avoid the mistake of thinking a quick hit motivational cure will erase the long-term damage done to exhausted employees and supervisors. It won’t work to throw a book at them and say, “Your cheese has moved.”
  • If supervisors, managers and teams have been reorganized more than once a year, something is going to give. When people don’t know who they are reporting to or what functions they’re responsible for, they stop working toward competency, investing in relationships or organizational vision.

Not surprisingly, an search turned up more than 20 titles on how to do business at “the speed of light”. We may have this all backwards. Slow down for maximum productivity and process improvement!