10 Effective Guidelines for Written Communication

In a personal or business setting, the ability to effectively communicate through written correspondence is a must. Written communication can take on many forms including email, text messages, memos, or letters. No matter what format you are using, there are a few basic rules you should follow to ensure your written communication is correct and effective,


Use simple sentence structure. Complex sentence structure can complicate what you are trying to say and be easily misunderstood. Keep your sentences concise and to the point. Instead of saying "I would like to schedule a meeting to discuss the pertinent facts of the case at your earliest convenience," say "Please let me know when we can meet to discuss the case."

Avoid Jargon

Do not use jargon or language that only you and select group of individuals understand. Your written communication should be accessible to your audience, no matter who you are communicating with. Technical language and jargon should only be used when more simplistic language will not suffice.


Provide specific details whenever possible. Avoiding writing in ambiguous or unclear details. Instead of writing "I have a lot of experience working in this field," say "I have worked as an engineer for three and a half years."

Be Conversational

Written communication is different from academic or scholarly writing and should be more conversational in nature. As a rule of thumb, write in similar fashion as talk. Read your message aloud to ensure that your writing sounds conversational.

Avoid Gendered Language

Avoid attaching a masculine or feminine pronoun to your writing. While it is technically sound grammar to use "he" or "his" when the gender is unknown or when referring to a group of people, the language may offend some people. To be on the safe side, do not use a gendered pronoun unless you are sure of the person's gender you are referencing.

Avoid Passive Language

Choose active verbs instead of passive verbs to add interest to your written communication. Write "I drove to the beach on Saturday," instead of "When I was driving to the beach on Saturday...". Using active voice will also allow you to sound more conversational, as we rarely use passive voice in verbal communication.

Be Personable

If you know the person you are writing to, acknowledge this relationship. Instead of using blanket pronouns such as "you," use the person's name. Make the information you include in your written communication pertinent to the reader. Depending on the relationship you have with person, begin and end your writing with an appropriate greeting.

Medium Selection

Choose the right medium for your written communication. Whether you use email, text messaging, or a letter depends on who you are writing to and what you are writing about. If you have never used text messaging in the work environment, it may not be the best way to correspond with a coworker.

Appropriate Humor

Use humor in moderation, and only when appropriate for the situation. If you are unfamiliar with your reader, avoid making jokes so as not to offend the reader. If you have a good relationship with your reader, feel free to use humor in your written communication. Even if you know the reader well, avoid offensive or controversial humor.

Proof Read

No matter how good at writing you may be, it is critical to proof read your written communication. Check for spelling or grammatical errors in your writing. Make sure that what you have written effectively communicates the intended message.

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