I read the email once. I read it again. Then I read it again. Each time I read it I was trying to decipher what the writer was saying to me. Did she have a question? Was she being sarcastic towards me? Was she complaining about something? I couldn’t tell. Fortunately in a later conversation with her superior, I learned that her superior had been copied on the email and also had trouble deciphering the message. I felt better.
But here is the sad part. The writer of the email was a long term employee of the client organization. Over the years she had risen through the ranks, and was now acting in a very senior position within the organization. She was eligible for retirement and, on more than one occasion, had approached me about a second career as a consultant. I was as tactful as I could be as we discussed her writing skills (or lack thereof), while secretly marveling that she had attained the position she currently held given those poor writing skills.
Writing says something about you. Your writing skills, no matter the medium, give the reader a strong indication of your clarity of thinking, your ability to get your point across, and your overall analytical skills. Good writing skills set you apart, and may be the best asset you possess.
To be an effective consultant or project manager or staff member on a project team, the ability to write well is paramount. I have often heard technical staff state that they do not need good writing skills as long as they are good programmers. I have watched some of those same technicians struggle in their jobs as they moved up through the ranks of their career paths, finding themselves having to rely more and more on soft skills such as the ability to write well.
Learn to write well. To the reader you are what you write.
 The examples in this blog post are for illustrative purposes only, and are based on the author’s first-hand knowledge and/or actual experiences. However, names, locations, dates, and even some circumstances may be changed to maintain the anonymity of the organizations and individuals involved.
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