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Being a good writer is a valuable skill in every part of life. In relationships, people love to talk about the importance of communication. Really sappy people even write each other letters. In high school, the curriculum is centered around tests and papers. In college, professors find a way to make every single class require essays. But what happens after school? Is writing still important to practice in the workplace, and how does it show up? The short answer is: yes. Employers value writing as a basic tool, just like teamwork. If you can impress them, it will change your whole career. This article details the different types of writing you will typically be expected to do in the workplace, and how to start confidently. 

  1. Emails
  2. Letters
  3. Memos
  4. Proposals
  5. Reports
  6. And more! This is a comprehensive list of any type of document an employee may be expected to create.

Email is the most common and most straightforward type of workplace communication. People communicate via email on a daily basis in a typical workplace. If you are new to the world of email: welcome! It is pretty easy to learn the ropes. A good manager can effectively use office communication to share information and improve conditions. Every other type of writing is slightly different, but includes the same considerations. A few key things to consider when writing an email are these: Who is it going to? What is your message? How do you want to say it? 

Considering your audience is a crucial part of any communication, but especially in the hierarchy of a workplace. If you are writing to your coworker who you sit next to, the email will look different than if the target audience is your boss or their boss. You have to tailor your message to fit the right tone. As a general rule, the higher up the person in the To line is, the more formal your message. You want to look and sound impressive, but always be respectful. Even if you are writing to the lowest of the low employees, you should maintain a level of company etiquette that reflects the professionalism and values you work to uphold. Everyone does their part to keep the business running, and that is valuable no matter what.

Your message is the “what” of your email. It is polite to include a line at the beginning of an email inquiring about someone’s life or wishing them well to soften the message. This is especially important if there is something big going on in their life or in the company. During the pandemic, many emails opened with the classic “I hope you and your family are staying healthy during these unprecedented times.” After the polite opening, do not be afraid to use the return button. Separating your email into short, digestible paragraphs makes it friendly to read and shows conciseness and clarity. Take your second paragraph to get to the point fast. You have already been nice, now tell your recipient what warrants their attention. “I need help with XYZ,” “I was wondering if you could review ABC,” “In reference to the meeting last week, I want to follow up with you on MNO.” Whatever you have to say, say it now. If you have two separate things to say, use two separate paragraphs. Conclude with a thanks. The person you are contacting likely has other fish frying, and taking the time to read and reply to your email may or may not be a priority.

What is the tone of workplace writing?

The tone of your email is the “how.” How do you want to come across as grateful, stressed, professional, casual? There are a million answers to that question, you just have to land on one that feels right to you and reads well for the other person. Tone is conveyed in your word choice, use of punctuation, syntax, and more. If you use words like “urgent” and write many short sentences, the email reads as a priority. If the matter is not pressing, you can use more long sentences, periods, and relaxed words. No matter what, make sure the tone matches your intention.

Even if writing is not a critical part of your job, it will dictate your relationships with coworkers and bosses. People value quality writing, and being able to convey your thoughts accurately and appropriately is a high priority in the workplace today. If you need assistance or accommodations from your employer, you will need to contact them.