I had a boss that always edited memos sent to him. He would edit it and send it back, edit the edited version when you sent it back to him and there would be a back and forth until he was satisfied with it. It used to infuriate me. I used to mutter to myself, “why don’t you just write the memo the way you want” or “the memo is in my own words, why do I have to use yours?”
I did not understand him at all, until recently.
One of the first engagements in Management Communication was about grammar and writing. Going through the Bristol University Grammar Tutorial felt like being on an episode of the popular sitcom “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader”. Some grammar I took for granted that I knew or was proficient in, I found out I was not. It was an eye opener.
Then came the writing assignment, we were to read and summarize a two hundred- and eighty-one-page book to six hundred words, it was a struggle, but we got it done. As the classes progressed, I realized these exercises were but foundations into making us better writers. I understood that writing, especially in a corporate organization is more effective when it is concise and to the point.
I also discovered that communication was not just about passing across an information and believing that you had stated your points and it should be sufficient for decisions to be made. Writing a document was so much more. It was about conveying your feelings about a situation in writing, it was about seducing the readers to stay engaged, it was about selling your ideas and message to your target audience, and it was also objectively providing information that may, in some cases, have a profound effect on the lives of others.
I started to deliberately apply the lessons learnt in my written communication and after a while, I realized it was not just a conscious effort, it became instinctive. I write a memo, read it through, edit it, sometimes replace sentences with concise words and check grammar to make sure it is in what I consider the best state, before I send out any missive.
I have somewhat become my boss as I check my subordinates’ memos and practically do what my boss used to do with mine. There is a difference in my way though, I read through, edit, repeat the process and only when I am satisfied do I send it to them to sign and send it out. To avoid them thinking of me the way I thought of my former boss, I also engage them by explaining the reasons for the edits and therefore passing across the learnings I paid a princely price for to them, for free.
I have noticed a difference in their memos. They are more concise and with time, they will be more proficient and pass the lessons down instigating a new writing corporate culture.