The Write Stuff
Friday, March 3, 2006
Posted by: Robert Half Technology
Reprint with Permission from Robert Half Technology
Author & Source: Career Experts at Robert Half Technology
The Write Stuff
Provided by the career experts at Robert Half Technology
Although you may spend more time writing code than writing memos, few IT professionals can get through the workday without composing some sort of business document, whether it's a request to an executive to invest in a new server or an e-mail to a department assistant about the features of a recently installed software application.
No matter how formal or informal the document, your writing gives readers a lasting impression about your professionalism and expertise. If you didn't study journalism in college, however, don't worry. The key to writing effectively has less to do with creativity and knowledge of formal rules than it does with relaying information clearly and concisely. Here are some ways to do just that:
Keep your audience in mind
Always tailor your communication to the backgrounds of your readers. Talk of "IP addresses" and "user interfaces" may be well understood by your colleagues, but not by those with little or no background in technology. People are unlikely to research unclear terminology, so use plain English when writing for diverse audiences.
Get to the point
If your document is a follow-up to a specific concern or question, don't bury your response. When the IT director wants to know how quickly new desktop systems will be implemented, provide your answer at the beginning, before you shift the focus to other aspects of the project. Your goal is to capture the audience's attention early on so they will continue reading.
If your e-mail or print document is too lengthy, busy professionals may not take the time to read it all. So, try to keep your communications brief when possible. With complex topics that must be addressed more thoroughly, consider using subheads such as, "projected costs" and "competing products" to organize the information.
You never know who may ultimately read your messages: E-mails, for example, can easily be forwarded to others, so it's wise to consistently maintain a professional and uncontroversial tone. After all, that casual e-mail about how your boss "always chooses second-rate technologies" just may end up in his or her inbox. Re-reading your documents before distributing them helps ensure nothing could be misinterpreted or cause problems should unintended recipients see them. Also keep a sharp eye out for typos or grammatical errors, which could distract from your message and lessen your credibility.
At the same time, be careful about how you respond to disturbing or offensive messages from colleagues. Try to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. For instance, if a coworker tells those in the department that you "leave the office at five each day," she may not be questioning your commitment to your job but rather noting your schedule so staff know when you can be reached. Avoid hasty responses that could come back to haunt you.
Writing may not come naturally to you, but if you keep the audience in mind and are as concise and professional as possible, others will be hard pressed to prove otherwise.