Supporting Your Professional Career with Effective Writing
Many students question the need to develop their professional writing skills when texting, messaging, and social media seem to dominate communication in many environments. Indeed, we can message our accountant, text our doctor, or chat with our child’s teacher. However, professional disciplines require a formal writing style, standard grammar, and word usage that are essential for effective communication. Appropriate professional writing allows the reader, whether it be a co-worker, customer, or boss, to focus on the intended message. However, non-standard or inappropriate writing will be noticed and can impact the reader’s understanding and perception of the content. Think about the time when you weren’t sure what that test question was asking because the writing wasn’t clear. Or, what your supervisor would think if the email you wrote to a customer contained misspellings, grammar errors, or confusing sentences, and it resulted in the customer taking her business elsewhere. We are representatives of our businesses and industries, and what we write has an impact.
Henry, a mechanical engineer I talked with who works for an auto manufacturing company, stated that appropriate professional writing is expected when communicating with his peers and especially with his bosses. Clear and effective communication is the norm. He says that he knows anything he writes is a reflection on his professionalism. Although short-hand writing in chats, messaging, and texts can be effective, professionalism in your career is supported with strong writing skills. Communicating effectively and accurately through appropriate writing is also commonly associated with good thinking. Henry conveyed that a person who writes well is considered to be someone who knows what they are talking about and who is sought out for their professional opinion. Your credibility is supported through good writing skill; it gives you “instant street cred” according to Henry.
Safety and Quality
Nursing and engineering, just like many other professions, rely on clear written communication for safety and quality. Nursing, the most trusted profession, relies on effective communication in a highly complex environment. Professional peers–such as doctors, pharmacists, or physical therapists–expect communications to be clear, concise, and accurate in order to provide safe quality care. Small writing mistakes can change the meaning of the communication leading to unintended consequences. Consider that inaccurate communication resulting from a nurse’s confusing writing could cause patient harm or that an engineer’s unclear notes could negatively impact product development. Professional writing must also be understandable to a diverse audience. Henry works with engineers from around the world who use Standard English to communicate project details. He stresses the importance that clear, understandable writing is essential in all communications saying that “you can’t put poor grammar into Google Translate!” and expect to get an accurate interpretation. In nursing, the same thing applies when sharing critical patient information with other healthcare professionals. Conveying accurate information in a clear manner makes everyone’s work product better.
Good for Business
Businesses rely on employees who can support their internal and external customers. Michael Keathley, Chair of General Education/Composition and Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) at Purdue University Global, says that employees’ written communication skills can impact any organization’s success in a rapidly changing business landscape. Writing that is welcoming and conveys accurate information to the public can build customer trust and loyalty. Healthcare organizations are in the people business, and effective communication from nurses to other healthcare team members and patients facilitates good patient care that can promote better healthcare outcomes, which is the goal of all healthcare institutions.
Meeting the Challenge
Since all professions require formal writing skills that support professionalism and career advancement, how can you meet the challenge? Taking your writing seriously and developing strong writing skills now establishes a solid foundation for professional writing in your future professional role. You will benefit from taking the time to organize your thoughts, read what others write, proofread your work, read your own work out loud, and then revise and rewrite. Expanding your vocabulary and using appropriate words to convey just the right meaning demonstrate that you have seriously considered what you are writing and believe in its importance. Using credible sources and citing them in a standardized format such as APA or MLA teaches you the importance of supporting what you write and giving credit when it is due. These skills directly translate to your career as all professions have their discipline-specific expectations of writing.
Appropriate and effective writing is a skill that is developed with practice, just like all other professional skills. So, take advantage of the opportunity given to you by your professors and develop those writing skills that will support your career advancement.