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September 24, 2014
By Beth Brooks, CAE

One of the most important skills anyone in the work world can have is the ability to write well. In fact, a recent Inc. Magazine article about successful managers led with the headline The Absolutely Essential but Most Overlooked Skill You Need in Management. They were talking about writing skills.

In association management, the ability to write comes in handy on a daily basis. Are you tweeting? If so, the ability to edit but still get your point across in the fewest words is essential. Writing a blog or a regular column for the website or magazine? You should not be struggling to get those words written. Being able to write clearly, concisely and quickly is not a skill everyone has (but they should).

What about those speeches you make to members, legislators, and the public? They start with the written word. 

And documents – your written work (presentations, research, papers, etc.) is a document that everyone can refer to, work off of or consult. It holds you and your team members accountable.  Verbal communication cannot hold a candle to the written word.

And finally, every day, we write hundreds of emails. Is anyone really reading them? Are they too long and people grimace when they open your emails? Learn the art of editing, getting your point across and making sure your reader knows what you want (action, recommendation, informational only, response needed…).

How do you learn to write better?  My advice:

  1. Practice. Write everyday about something. Could be a journal, could be a blog. Better yet, write thank you letters (more on this in a minute).
  2. Read. Reading trains your brain to construct well written sentences. The better reader you are, I contend, the better writer you will be.

And about those thank you notes… you are writing them aren’t you? Thank you letters have never gone out of style and a short thank you is always appreciated. While email thank you’s are acceptable, the written note is special and everyone who gets one acknowledges that you have gone to some effort.

But the business thank you letter is one that I find is an art. The art of appreciating a company or person who has done a great job.

After each conference, I write a letter to the hotel general manager, the President of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and any other key leader who was instrumental in our success. Those letters have three parts: the opening which states how our members felt at the meeting; the middle which identifies (by name) their staff members who were outstanding and what they did, and the ending which is the thank you part.

These letters take some time to construct, but the feedback I get is so gratifying. They read these letters out loud at meetings, give the staff copies of the letters for their files, and sometimes they print them on their website.  You want your notes to be meaningful to the recipient.

View a recent thank you letter from our New Ideas Annual Conference 

To me, writing is a staple skill that everyone should have. If you are not a proficient writer, it’s easy to get started. Just write me a note!

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