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Employability Skills

Written Communication involves...

Written Communication involves expressing yourself clearly, using language with precision; constructing a logical argument; note taking, editing and summarising; and writing reports. 
There are three main elements to written communication
Structure – the way the content is laid out
Style – the way it is written
Content – what you are writing about
Structure and layout can be relatively quickly learnt but learning how to write good quality content takes much longer.
A good structure will help you to express yourself more clearly, whether in a dissertation, an essay, a job application letter or a CV. The following tactics may help you to structure your writing:
  • Clarify your thoughts and the purpose of your communication before you start writing. In business communications, clarity is more important than style.
  • Identify the key points, facts and themes
  • Decide on a logical order for what you have to say
  • Compose a strong introduction and ending. The first will make an immediate and positive impression on the reader; the latter will remain in their mind after they have finished reading
  • Use short paragraphs and sentences rather than long, rambling ones. Keep to one idea per paragraph and put your point in the first line, then add the supporting information.
  • Help key points to stand out by the use of headings, sub-headings and bullet points. This will allow your reader to quickly scan your message for the main points.

Writing in a style appropriate to the audience

All good communicators should think about their readers:

  • How much information and detail will they need?
  • Should you use specialist terms or should you “translate” these to make yourself understood by a generalist reader?
  • How formal or informal should your writing be?

For example: 

  • A scientific paper aimed at an audience of non-scientists would have to be written in simpler and less technical language.
  • A report in the Financial Times would be written in a very different style from one covering the same issue in the Sun
  • A lawyer giving advice to a client would not go into the same amount of details as to legal precedents and arguments as a law student would when writing an academic essay.
  • Emails sent with job applications should be treated more formally than emails to friends and family!

Your very first contact with a prospective employer is likely to be in writing. When employers read application forms, CVs and covering letters they are not just looking at WHAT you have to say about yourself, your skills and your experience but also at HOW you say it.


Structure (the way the content is laid out)

  • Is the layout clear and easy to follow?
  • Do headings stand out (e.g. are they in a larger font size)? 
  • Is the information arranged in a logical sequence with a beginning (introduction), middle, and end (conclusion)?
  • Does the introduction clearly state the subject and purpose? 
  • Does it briefly summarise the content?

Style (the way it is written)

  • Does it look neat, and elegant?
  • Is it concise, with an exact use of words and economy of style
  • Is it simple, direct and lucid?
  • Are the paragraphs too long?  Paragraphs of less than 10 lines are easier to read
  • Is a blank line left between paragraphs? To aid clarity?
  • Are sentences too long?  A sentence should contain just one idea.  Sentences with more than 30 words should normally be split.
  • Is the first sentence interesting/ Does it draw the reader in?
  • Have you avoided unnecessary jargon?
  • Is the style suitable for the intended audience? 
  • A scientific report aimed at an audience of non-scientists would have to be written in simpler and more jargon free language.
  • Are bulleted lists used where appropriate?
  • Have you avoided repetition?

Content (what you are writing about)

  • Have you carefully checked the spelling and punctuation? 
  • Have you thought through in advance what you want to say? 
  • Have you a clear objective?
  • Have you listed the essential points you wish to make?
  • Have you made these points clearly? 
  • Have you developed your argument in a logical way? 
  • Have you allowed detail to obscure the main issues? 
  • Is the content positive and constructive? 
  • Have you edited it through several revisions, honing the text until it is just right? 
  • Have you left it overnight if possible: your mind will assimilate it better and you will come back with a fresh view.