If you can speak, don’t write.


Written Communication is the most dangerous form of communication, therefore, getting written communication right as a business, law firm or government body is a very crucial thing. Although you can achieve that by following one simple rule that should be the basis of all written communication, never write negatively.

Although big corporations can afford to hire communications officers and draw out big budgets for the communication department, some of them still get written communication wrong.

That is why you need to be careful whether you are sending out an application letter or you just got a job as a public relations officer or communications officer or you run a small business or you are just sending out an email to a friend, there are some rules that govern written communication that you’ll need before sending it out.

Below are some of the rules of written communication,


Follow the golden rule of writing, never write anything negative: whether you are writing a notice of payment, or deadline or writing an email to a worker who is not performing to their best potential, don’t be negative.

Instead find ways in which you can either ask for a one on one meeting with the worker outside office to discuss it away from everyone else and then inform them that you’ll follow it up with a written letter if he is under threat of dismissal according to labour laws.

Whether the talk was negative or positive, it will have mentally prepared him/her to expect what will be packaged in this letter as opposed to spring it up on him/her in an email.

If you can speak, don’t write: Strive Masiyiwa, one of Africa’s business icons said in one of his written business series on Facebook, that if you can meet your partner to discuss an issue in your business, don’t call them  meet with them face to face, if you can’t meet them, call and talk to them.

It is only and only if you can’t talk to them face to face or call them that you have to resort to writing but he says you have to go about it with a lot of caution.

He too clearly understands the downsides of written communication in business because most people have different communication styles.


Richard Denny said in his book Communicate to win, that visual beings always draw mental pictures while reading or engaging in a conversation with someone because they understand things visually.

Auditory people understand via listening to word by word of what is being said so written communication can become something you can misfire on if you are not objective enough to meet the communication needs of every reader. If you truly have to write, do it but always follow it up with a phone call, Denny says.

Write like you talk on a daily basis: For sure the worst written communication styles are in courts of law and government offices.

Even if you have the best command on the English language, if you received a document from court you’ll always need a lawyer to interpret it because the writer wrote with the purpose of passing on the document but  not to communicate?

For government offices they use old phrases that are so tired like, under the aforementioned circumstances, attached hereto, as per your letter of the 15th at hand, would you kindly be good enough to send me your cheque in the amount of 1,000,000 shillings, we are this day in receipt of, at your earliest convenience and the mother of all that kills me is keep me in the know.

For Christ’s sake what does that mean, who coined the phrase.

Some people still use the word dear in emails, that is even more awkward because in your day to day life you can’t address someone you are opening conversation with that dear John welcome to my company.

Instead you say, hullo, hi, how are you. That is what you should carry on into written communication but am not saying you should invite in your social media jargon.

Always Re-read before sending: This is a rule of thumbs for me, always read, re-read and re-read then proof read that should be enough reading.

Then ask yourself what your reaction would be if you received it. I believe sleeping over it and reading it again in the morning before sending it out is a good thing.

This also applies to e-mail, where the consequences of a badly worded communication can be even worse than when it is in a letter – a letter is usually read by just one individual, but an email can be forwarded to several people and it can upset countless people.

Another worst form of communication is when you write someone a notice of payment and follow it up with a warning: This is a huge deal breaker for me because am always like what are you going to do.

In case someone sends me a notice that reads, “am writing to remind you about your outstanding balance of 50,000 shillings to avoid future inconveniences.

If the sentence is cut short from shillings you have effectively communicated but when you add a warning at the end you have opened yourself up to be misunderstood.

What are the consequences, what are you going to do, those are the questions the reader will see in such  communication and I can tell you it will cause a misunderstanding.

Therefore before you write, always remember that written communication is the most dangerous form of communication because people can always go back to it and read it again and again than the spoken word hence if you can speak, don’t write.

This story was inspired by a book I read last week written by Richard Denny-Communicate to Win. You can go back to it and learn more on your own.



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