Nearly every position requires good written communication skills to craft emails, prepare reports, and write memos. Knowing how to communicate effectively in writing enables you to capture your reader's attention and get your point across. In this article, we define written communication skills and provide examples you can use at work. We also explain how to develop and showcase your written communication skills to impress employers and excel in your role.
What are written communication skills?
Written communication skills are qualities that enable you to convey a message or idea in writing. Unlike verbal communication skills, hiring managers start evaluating these skills when they receive your application. Written communication is the primary way of recording information to reference later on.
Read more: Four Types of Communication (With Examples)
Examples of written communication skills
Here are examples of elements that make up written communication skills:
Clarity means helping your reader understand what you write, for them to take the required action or ask for further information. Effective written communication involves writing in simple language and including only relevant information.
Example: "Please create a third-person bio for our IT team to include in the new website. Aim to meet the word count of 200 words. If you have questions, kindly send me a private message."
Conciseness means including only information that applies to your audience and necessary to convey your message. The ability to write concisely helps in communicating your message quickly and efficiently. This is important when writing memos or requests.
Example: "I'd prefer your approach for our next project. Please write out the steps we need to follow."
Correctness refers to your writing tone and the use of precise grammar and punctuation. The tone you choose should match the purpose of your message. For instance, in business writing, consider using a formal and friendly tone.
Example: "Thank you for reaching out to the team. I enjoyed discussing our vacant supervisory position with you. We will get back to you in three weeks."
4. Active voice
While passive voice is useful in various forms of writing, such as technical reports, active voice is easier to follow. It also allows your reader to navigate your writing quickly.
Example: "Please review this document and leave comments if you have any. We plan to publish it in the next quarter."
How to develop your written communication skills
Here are ways to become better at getting your point across in writing:
1. Understand why you're writing
Start by defining the purpose of writing and your target audience. Having clear goals helps to stay focused and makes your writing more informative. Next, communicate your reason for writing early in your message to give the reader context.
2. Create an outline
An outline is a document that helps you organize your thoughts before you start writing your first draft. It highlights key points and ideas you want to convey in your message.
First, plan your outline and decide on its structure. Then group your ideas into categories. Explain the key points and include other details later. Organizing your writing this way helps both careful readers and people who might skim through your message.
3. Review your writing
After writing, ensure you read through a few times before you convey the message. Aside from catching basic grammar and punctuation errors, pay attention to how your message sounds by reading it aloud. You may also start from the end and read to the start. A few questions to ask while reviewing your writing include:
- Does it make sense?
- How does it flow?
- Will my reader understand my message?
- Are there missing details?
While it's important to edit your work thoroughly, avoid correcting errors as you write your email, letter, report, or memo. Leave the editing to when you have a complete draft of your message.
4. Use examples of effective writing as reference
Save documents, emails, memos, and other types of written communication you receive. Then use these documents to guide your writing. For example, you may save a memo from the General Assembly of the United Nations to use as reference when writing your next memo.
5. Practice writing and ask for feedback
In your free time, write about topics that interest you and have someone review the documents. Ask them whether they understand your message clearly. Getting feedback from your career coach, trusted friend, or family member can help you identify what written communication skills to improve.
6. Enroll in workshops and take online courses
Completing online courses and workshops is another way to improve your written communication skills. Network with more experienced professionals and understand how they write effective memos, reports, and other types of written documents.
How to display your written communication skills
Here are ways to showcase your written communication skills:
1. On your resume
Display your good written communication skills by creating a functional resume. Your resume should emphasize your strengths, experience, and skills, and must be easy to read. Use bullet points, lists, and headlines to show hiring managers your ability to communicate effectively.
Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Functional Resumes
Review this example of a functional resume that shows good written communication skills:
Vancouver, British Columbia
University of British Columbia, B.A. in English Literature
September 2012—September 2016
Timber Ball Publishing, Vancouver, BC
Writer, February 2017—Present
- Write technical articles for the fast-rising football company
- Train new writers
- Excellent attention to detail
- Exceptional time management and organizational skills
- Expert in editing and proofreading
- Ability to display information in graphs
- Member of the Professional Communications Society
- Member of the National Association of Science Writers
- Member of the Society of Technical Communication
2. In your cover letter
Cover letters introduce you to potential employers and offer an opportunity to showcase your good written communication skills. Use your cover letter to explain what makes you unique, a few strengths, and why you are the best candidate for a position.
Cover letter example
Here's an example of how to apply your written communication skills in your cover letter:
Dear Hiring Manager,
I am writing to express my interest in the opening for a research assistant at Exert Labs.
This position appeals to me for various reasons. Firstly, I see it as an opportunity to contribute to exciting research projects. I started my career as a research assistant at Quilo Labs. I have experience collecting data for experiments and using computer systems to organize data. In my previous role, I assisted the lead researcher in analyzing research data, disseminating research results, and preparing technical reports for journals.
The growth opportunities here also appeal to me. My understanding of your culture is that there are multiple career development opportunities for self-motivated employees. I'm eager to apply my keen attention to detail, observation, and analytical skills at your company.
Please contact me if you need any information about my experience, skills, or qualifica**tions. Thank you for considering my application.
3. In your follow-up letters
After interviewing for a position, you can still show employers your written communication skills. Be sure to send a well written and error-free follow-up email or thank-you letter.
Thank-you letter example
Review this example of how to display your written communication skills in follow-up letters:
Thanks for taking the time to meet with me last Friday. I enjoyed discussing the software engineer position with you and appreciated learning about working with the engineering team.
This feels like a rewarding role with lots of opportunities to collaborate with other experienced software engineers. I believe my master's degree in business intelligence and certifications make me an excellent candidate for the role. I look forward to discussing the opportunity with you more. Kindly contact me if you need additional information about my application.
4. In presentations and reports
Presentations and reports offer you the opportunity to inform upper management and your coworkers about activities while expressing your written communication skills. When writing reports, ensure you organize information and use simple sentences to convey your message. If you use charts, graphs, and diagrams, make sure they apply to the message you want to pass across. Also, use terms that are popular within your team and define those that your audience may not be familiar with.
Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.