By Dr. Ashutosh Karnatak
(This article is based on my experience in the corporate sector, wherein I found that most of the officials need a much-needed improvement in writing skills)
A good write-up communicates whatever the sender-writer wishes to convey to the receiver. It contains an informative content, is simple enough to be comprehended by a person of average intellect, gets to the point and ideas are presented in an orderly manner. All successful people throughout history have shown that not only good oratory but good writing skill is an integral part of their success and this is absolutely true in the corporate world. If you analyse as to who all are on way to the top, you will find that apart from oral expression, they all have good writing skills.
It is often seen that officials keep writing letters in a routine, ineffective manner, which is not able to make the desired effect. Good letter writing is an art, which makes the reader easily understand the subject. In fact, a bad writer is often under an illusion that the reader will have the same perception and understanding as the writer was thinking, while writing out a document. In the perspective of communication, a document is a piece of paper which contains some information which the reader is supposed to read , understand , comprehend and finally take action as per his understanding of the subject. The process is as under.
Document composition by the sender: It is written by the writer based on his understanding of the subject. He downloads the words out of the vocabulary which is there in his mind. The words should be effective enough to convey the correct message. Along with the words, the right kind of preposition etc should be there. Ddocument writing is an art which the writer has to master through training. This is the first step from where the communication between two persons starts. So,it is the document which determines the end result i.e. a corrective action on the part of the receiver of the written message.
It is my experience that most of the officials are weak in this writing they are not able to translate what is in their mind. It may be lack of words or delay in the speed of writing and use of the appropriate word. It is again my experience that the writer writes garbage in the document. A lot of unwanted text is introduced, which has no relation with the main subject. In other words, effectiveness is lost.
Reading by the receiver: This aspect is also a cause of concern. Most of us read the document casually and are not able to comprehend the subject and ultimately take a wrong action. To avoid this mistake in later life, educationists have devised and designed English comprehension to be taught in English classes from the childhood itself. Based on that childhood study, it is upto the adult reader how he reads the document. In fact, the reader gets interested in seeking a point which he thinks and hopes to be there in the document. If not found in the document,, he throws away the document .Therefore the document needs to be able to create interest.
“As per a group of researchers at Harvard University led by a psychologist named Barbara Flagg who were expert in something called eye movement photography. Eye movement research is based on the idea that the human eye is capable of focusing on only a very small area at one time -- what is called a perceptual span. When we read, we are capable of taking in only about one key word and then four characters to the left and fifteen characters to the right at any one time.
We jump from one of these chunks to another, pausing – or fixating – on them long enough to make sense of each letter. The reason we can focus clearly on only that much text is that most of the sensors in our eyes – the receptors that process what we see – are clustered in a small region in the very middle of the retina called the fovea. That’s whey we move our eyes when we read: we can’t pick up much information bout the shape, or the color, or the structure of words unless we focus our fovea directly on them.”(2)
It should be like a like a journey, and start from “To:" and end with “Yours Sincerely”. Based on my experience, reading is also an art which ends to be practiced. At a senior position one should be able to understand and quickly comprehend the subject matter within seconds after seeing the document.
Capturing the subject matter: The writer of the document must know how and where to insert the subject so that the reader is able to capture it in his mind. Mind is the main centre of all the reactions but has to deal with many issues at a time, which is to be processed. So when the reader reads the text of the document, the subject needs to enter into his mind, otherwise the objective of the document will get defeated.
Retention of the subject
Action on the same:
You, as a reader, by now must have realised how important is to write a correct document.
Precautions to be taken before meeting senior officials: In our day to day professional life ,we are required to interact with a person to make him understand the subject matter .Once again I have to repeat this fact that that we often feel that the opposite party thinks as we think – it is a wrong notion.. Whenever going to meet a person, or write to a person, we must think from his viewpoint. Recently, we had to meet a senior official for some issue. I told my colleague about the preparation on the subject. He had a file comprising of many documents.The colleague believed more on verbal discussion than written one. I advised him that we must have ONE SINGLE paper which may reflect the total issue to him understandable in the least possible time. Consequently, the total issue was captured in one single page as under:
After approaching to the concerned authority, and wishing him, we sat down and asked about the subject matter which had brought us there. We placed the one -page note and while we were explaining him the subject matter , he had already gone through the note and marked it to the concerned matter as he could understood the issue and the action to be taken by him and within 5 minutes, we were disposed .
So, it is essential that whenever we meet any one, we must take the following precautions:
What is writing?
Writing is an art as well as science. The Art part consists of style of writing consisting active or passive voice, deleting needless words, writing the way we speak etc., whereas the Science part is grammar, spelling, punctuations etc.
As a general law, the writings are FOR OTHERS, and not for you .However, most people feel or understand that readers have the same mindset as that of the writer. One book on the subject mentions that the writings are based on SAP (1), wherein S stands for subject, A indicates audience and P stands for purpose.
Subject (S) : One must be clear about the subject so that all the contents are related to it .
Purpose (P): What are you writing? What do you wish to covey to your audience?
This exercise helps in drafting the letter.
One of the important factors which is required to be taken care by the writer is:
Readers are required to read books on this subject and improve upon the skills required for writing the text so that the reader finds ease in reading and comprehending the document.
Reference: (1) “Write up the corporate ladder” by Kevin Ryan