I always advise my coaching clients to provide their bosses with regular status updates— whether or not they request them. I see four benefits of writing these regular updates.
1. Your updates prove your work delivered results.
2. Your updates can positively influence your annual performance review.
3. Your updates help you keep your resume up to date.
4. Your updates help you create a career communication system.
These status reports help you prove your worth—to your manager or a potential hiring manager. But only if you do a good job in writing them.
Tweet 113 in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “Write clearly and simply: short words and sentences, first person, active voice. Be precise in your choice of words.” Good writing will set you apart and put you on the road to personal and professional success. Too many people are poor writers. They are unclear. They ramble. Their emails, letters and reports are a series of long sentences filled with big words that don’t really say anything. You can’t catch people’s attention by writing this way. You need to write clearly, crisply, concisely.
I try to write like a journalist. I use short sentences with a simple subject-verb-object structure. My writing may be a little staccato, but it communicates. People tell me that they can understand my points and the reasoning behind them. And that’s what I want when I write—and what you want when you write your status updates.
Write with your reader in mind. Sometimes it’s a good idea to read aloud what you’ve written to get a feel for how it will sound to your reader. Write in short, simple sentences. Use the simplest words you can to get your point across, while still being accurate. Write fast. Get your thoughts on paper or on the computer screen as quickly as you can. Then edit and rewrite until you’ve said exactly what you want to say. One of my first bosses always told me that rewriting is the secret to good writing.
Spelling counts, too. Correct spelling does two things for you. First, it shows that you have a good command of the language. Second, and more important, correct spelling demonstrates that you respect both yourself and the reader. Misspelled words stand out like sore thumbs to readers.
Don’t just spell-check your documents. Proof them. Spell-check will often miss improper usage in words like “your” and “you’re,” “hear” and “here,” and “their” and “there.”
The same holds true for punctuation. Make sure that you know how to properly use periods, question marks, commas, colons, semicolons, exclamation marks, quotation marks and apostrophes. If you’re not sure about punctuation rules, spend a little time on the Internet learning proper usage.
I like the Poynter Institute for good information about writing. While their site, www.poynter.org, is aimed at journalists, there is a lot of very helpful information about writing and editing there—especially in the article in “Tip Sheets,” which can be found by searching on, well, “Tip Sheets.”
The common-sense point here is simple. It’s a good idea to keep your manager up to date by providing regular status update reports on your work. High quality status reports that communicate well and reflect your accomplishments depend on your writing skills. Be clear, concise and easily readable. Use short sentences and the smallest word that says exactly what you want to say. Write with your reader in mind. Read your writing aloud before sending it. Follow these simple rules for your status reports and you’ll brand yourself as a polished pro who communicates well.