Why bother writing when technology does much of the work for us? Templates plan for us, spell-check edits for us, and there's enough information online to produce a ocean of plagiarized work. It's no surprise that technical and business writing skills are becoming lost arts. Yet, successful communication with colleagues, teams, and clients relies heavily on written memos, emails, reports, proposals, and evaluations. Professional development should include the development of writing skills, but rarely does.
According to Alyssa Montague, SharePoint Administrator, "Technical writing skills are possibly one of the most important aspects of a successful career. To effectively communicate the solutions to complex problems, you must speak the same language as the other professionals in your field. If they cannot follow your logic, they will be unable to review your work, provide feedback, and collaborate. Without the respect and understanding of your peers, your ideas will never come to life before the general public."
Nowhere is the lack of writing skills more visible than in the STEM professions (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). Long before writing skills become essential to establishing professional credentials, they are key to completing a STEM college degree. As I found during my tenure as Research Coordinator at the College of Engineering and Computer Science at UTC, writing is too often an afterthought for STEM students. It's true for women and diverse students who fought long and hard to master the technical aspects of their education. It's also true for the business students.
According to Lakweshia Ewing, Co-owner of Biz Boom Apps LLC, "Learning to write well is a vital necessity to any career path, even STEM careers. The nucleus of writing, regardless of what field or industry an individual is embarking upon, remains the same. The ability to effectively communicate an idea, to establish a strong presence, and to write with clarity and impact are essential to having your voice heard. It's fair to say that writing is merely thinking with written words. To this end, we shouldn't find it strange that even in this high tech society, we need to develop, enhance, or cultivate strong writing abilities. Regardless of how intelligent students or employees are, if they can't convey their ideas in a manner that is understandable, if they're unable to express their brilliant innovations, their ideas could get lost in translation. We need to understand that if an idea that can't be communicated will find itself unfunded, under-utilized, and often non-existent in the marketplace."
Sheila Boyington, President of Thinking Media, highlights the challenge for climbing the corporate ladder in most professions. "As it is in many professions, writing is the skill that helps you communicate your points effectively. There can be a misconception that the English, Language and Arts skills are less important than technical skills. However, to effectively perform, communication skills cannot be undervalued. Can you craft contracts, write grants, publish papers and perform a variety of job duties that require strong writing skills?"
Personal writing is becoming Instant-Speak with a quick stop at e-mailing before descending into tweets. Allowing technical and business writing to take a similar path will hurt you professionally. Give writing the time, energy, and focus that it deserves. Prepare your next written memo, email, or report with same focused attention that you'd give an oral presentation. Your written words last longer, and, if done well, have a broader impact than most of what you say.