So much has been written on business leadership. The topics covered in these books include business management, training, team building, productivity, leadership styles, and many others. However, few of them touch on writing skills, a vital yet undervalued aspect of leadership.
Writing in the workplace is unavoidable. As a leader, you are required to write emails, performance reviews, reports, and company memos.
Your writing has to be top-notch for anyone to take you seriously. Supervisors will gauge your credibility and capabilities through your writing.
Even though no one expects you to be perfect all the time, there are some glaring mistakes that, if made repeatedly, can undermine your reputation and credibility.
Below are some of the worst writing errors that leaders should never make:
1. Burying the Lead
A lead is a sentence that conveys the main idea of a document. It hooks the readers, and makes them want to read further.
So when writing a memo or an email, try not to put the main point towards the end of your text. It confuses your team and makes the employees feel like you are hesitant to venture forward with making significant decisions.
It will also cause the readers to lose interest in the document and stop reading. Remember, your readers are busy people. If you want their attention, you better put the lead in the first paragraph of your text.
The next time you compose an email, read it before you send it to your recipients.
If the readers do not get the central point in the first sentence or paragraph, revise the email and put the lead in the beginning.
You’ll get more attention and more action from your recipients, thus increasing productivity.
2. Typos, Grammatical Errors, and Poor Punctuation
With spell checking tools installed in word processing programs, online dictionaries, and an unlimited supply of well composed and edited articles on the internet, there is no justification for typos.
However, it’s still one of the most common mistakes that writers make. When it comes to writing, consistency in correct spelling and punctuation is the hallmark of a professional writer.
Incorrect use of grammar and punctuation reflects on your leadership style.
It makes people think you don’t care enough to proofread and edit your work. It also makes clients and supervisors lose confidence in your work. You will be less likely to be considered for a project or a promotion.
A study done by Grammarly revealed that workers with 6 to 9 promotions made 45% fewer errors than those with 1 to 2 promotions.
So read through your work and make the necessary changes.
You can also ask a colleague to check the text for any errors as they are more likely to spot something you missed. Editing can hugely impact your writing.
3. Long Complicated Sentences and Paragraphs
Complex sentences and words are not a sign of intellect. Your clients and employees have other things to deal with. They don’t have time to decipher what you’re trying to communicate.
Using long, complicated paragraphs will make your readers avoid your emails.
Use simple words and phrases to get your message across. Write short sentences, and stick to the point. Also avoid unnecessary punctuation that may confuse the readers.
To improve the readability of your documents, use 1 to 3 sentences per paragraph and choose the correct font and font size.
4. Poor Planning
No matter how close the deadline is for your project review or report, time spent on planning is never wasted.
Writing without a proper plan often results in a lengthy, jumbled text that does not relay your message correctly.
With planning, you can decide what information is crucial or desirable and what’s irrelevant, and prioritize your points in that order.
As a writer, you need to have an excellent title for your report. If you need title ideas, you can search online for cause and effect essay topics on finance as an example.
5. Passive Voice
As an authority figure, you want your content to reflect this authority. Active voice is more confident than passive voice.
Avoid using passive voice by leaving out words such as will, can, and may.
An example of a sentence in passive voice is “the report was reviewed by the leadership.”
To give more clarity and authority to the text, write in active voice, “the leadership reviewed the report.” Using passive voice often makes your voice sound weak and indecisive.
6. Confusing Contractions with Possessive Pronouns
Another common mistake is confusing possessive pronouns with contractions. These words have different meanings even though they sound the same.
Some of the regularly misused words are:
- They’re (they are) / their (possessive)
- Who’s (who is) / whose (possessive)
- You’re (you are) / your (possessive)
- It’s (it is) / its (possessive)
Abusing these words makes you look unprofessional and makes it harder for clients to take you seriously.
7. Being Vague
Vagueness is irritating and inefficient. Your readers will struggle to understand what you’re trying to communicate.
Ensure that your message is specific. Rather than asking, “Do you mind sharing your thoughts on my strategy?” ask, “Do you mind spending 10 minutes reviewing the 2018 financial plans?”
Unclear statements lack impact and can be easily misinterpreted.
A paper that’s composed shoddily can irritate clients and colleagues, fail to inspire people, or damage the reputation of the company.
On the other hand, an elegantly written paper is an essential business tool. It shows knowledge and expertise, wins new contracts, and helps develop a brand.
It also inspires confidence in employees and enhances the work process.
Words are useful tools. A solution or an idea is pointless if you have no means to convey it adequately.
If you stop making these errors in your business writing, you will be on the path to effective writing and your colleagues will stop nitpicking your emails and reports.
Which Writing Mistakes Do Leaders Need to Avoid?
If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!
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