Your short-term growth and long-term success depend on the actions you take now, especially when it comes to communication at work. However, like a frog in hot water, we can miss the cues and insights we need to shift away from ineffective communication habits as we develop more effective business communication skills.
Four critical business communication skills to hone
No matter whom you communicate with or the communication channel, these four business communication skills are invaluable: conciseness, consistency, engagement, and tone.
People often take three sentences to say what they could in one. This habit can be difficult to break—especially for young professionals who may be used to the word-count quotas and stylistic standards of academic writing. The more direct your messages are, the more you and your team can minimize any misunderstandings.
So, how do you improve the conciseness of your writing?
1 Delete the fluff.
Scan first drafts for words, phrases, and sentences you can delete without changing or losing the meaning of your message. Let yourself be ruthless—and when in doubt, strike it out.
2 Fast-track your self-editing.
With longer messages like reports, handbooks, and decks, manually reviewing can take a lot of time. Your brain gets tired. Motivation might drop. However, when you use a digital writing assistant like Grammarly Business, you can check content for clarity and conciseness in seconds. Better yet, you can see suggestions for how to edit your work, then accept suggestions at the touch of a button.
At both a personal and organizational level, consistency builds professional credibility. From informational consistency (like how you talk about a topic) to stylistic consistency (like how you use serial commas or indicate numbers), consistency is tied to how well people understand and respond to your communication. Plus, if your communication isn’t consistently high quality, you lose credibility amongst your colleagues and customers.
Here are two surefire ways to ensure consistency:
3 Start using snippets.
If you frequently communicate the same types of messages to customers or internal stakeholders, you can create a personal snippet library filled with your own clear, concise writing. No sense trying to recreate your own brilliance time after time. Snippets make it fast and easy for you to communicate effectively, in your voice, with consistency (and conciseness).
4 Check your writing against your style guide.
Most professionals don’t even know their company has a communication style guide. (And some organizations haven’t yet created them.) Whether you refer to a crib sheet like NASA or develop a robust set of communication standards like Mail Chimp, your style guide is a lighthouse you can look to as you strive to keep your communication safe and your reputation protected.
Read More: How to Create a Style Guide
Because style guides usually live in brand or creative department workflows, it’s hard to ensure adoption across the organization. But, if what you say as a sales or support person doesn’t match up to brand, marketing, or legal standards, your customers will call you out.
Look for a resource like Grammarly Business that embeds your style guide standards right into your workflow so that you can get real-time feedback on your communication quality and consistency.
Engaging communication keeps your audience reading and connected to you. Message by message, engagement ensures your audience hears you, understands you, and cares about what you’re trying to say. Most importantly, high engagement helps you achieve the professional impact you’re looking for.
Consider these two tips for ensuring engagement:
5 Leverage your lexicon.
To make your writing more engaging, watch for overused words. These may be words that everyone relies on too much (like“really” or “very”). They might also be words you favor too often. Refer to a digital or print thesaurus to keep your vocabulary fresh, precise, and interesting.
6 Organize for scanning.
Help your audience spot the information that matters most to them with clear and relevant headings and subheadings, digestible sentence and paragraph length, and chunks of key information spelled out in bullet points or numbered lists.
Achieving the right tone, especially in a remote workplace and fast-paced digital channels, can be challenging. The tone you intend to convey is not always the tone that comes across. Yet, using the wrong tone in business communications can be distracting, confusing, or even offensive.
Here are two techniques you can use to help you communicate tone effectively:
7 Be direct and communicate with confidence.
You don’t need to be a subject matter expert to communicate with confidence. When you use simple, direct language and sentence structure, you can achieve a confident tone. Also, in business writing, communicate in active voice as much as possible. Using active voice also helps you communicate more concisely and drive message engagement.
8 Measure your tone.
Empathetic connection is also important in business communication. When you communicate with empathy, you build trust. Using a tone detector (or your company’s brand tones) can help you measure your tone quality and adjust. Some messages are better communicated in a friendly and collaborative tone. Others are better expressed in a formal and informative style.
How to start improving your business communication today
In addition to improving the specific communication skills listed above, there are a few more actions you can start taking now to help your team communicate better—regardless of your specific areas for improvement:
- Practice active listening and reading, and encourage team members to do the same. Feeling heard is a great motivator for improving communication skills.
- Create, update, and distribute your brand style guide as needed to unify and clarify communication guidelines and expectations.
- Ask questions and invite your team members to follow suit. The more openly employees feel they can communicate, the easier it is to collaborate effectively.
Want more great resources to help you develop even better business communication skills? Stay connected to the Writing for Business Impact series and grow your professional communication advantage right from your inbox. Up next: The Secrets to Self-editing: Tips and tricks for best practice business communication
Ready to take action? Discover how Grammarly Business can drive success at your organization. Contact us for a demo.