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Playing Jeopardy with Your Future
By Jane Watson   Printer Friendly Version

When did you last perform a skills review on yourself? The consequence of not doing this at regular intervals is you jeopardize your own future.

There are two types of skill sets everyone has to work with to ensure their success in today's business world. The first one deals with the information and trends specific to your field of work. Are you keeping up to date with the changes in your industry? The second skill set-and one that is overlooked by "myopic" individuals-involves the ability to communicate your expertise to others.

There are numerous people in the work force who have failed to update their writing skills in the past five years. And that is too bad because the nature of writing has changed significantly with the influence of technology.

If your office is tracking the most recent trends, you are preparing an increased number of faxes and internal memos and-if you are on the leading edge-you are probably sending e-mails to your clients via the Internet. Second, the number of formal business letters is most likely down from a few years ago when you had a secretary to type them, check them for spelling and punctuation and arrange the lay out on the page.

I come across a large number of faxes and e-mails when I conduct a full-scale analysis of an organization's written communications. Here are some of the most common errors, I see in these documents, as well as in regular business correspondence, that rob writers/senders of their credibility:

1. Too wordy. Reader is left with the impression that the writer is either too busy/disorganized to do a good job or is trying to hide the fact he is not clear on the information or the reader's needs.

2. Poor tone. Writer projects the image of a dictator; the reader is irritated.

3. Features but no benefits. Writer too involved with her own needs; reader not encouraged to follow the writer's call to action.

4. Spelling errors. Writer appears lazy. Can't he look up a work or use his spell checker? Can't she even proof-read?

5. Incorrect punctuation. Writer loses points. The reader is more knowledgeable in grammar.

It is a competition out there. If you ignore your communication skills-written or electronic-and the impact they have on others, then don't be surprised if someone who demonstrates these skills replaces you or becomes your boss. And, you will have no one to blame but yourself.

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