Writing as Part of Effective Project Communications

Effective project managers and business analysts communicate well with others, in writing and when they speak. Be careful not to spend too much time documenting, recording and sharing project information. Even though this work takes place across the project life cycle, it is essential to only document and communicate what is necessary.  You also need to make sure that you document and communicate clearly.

If a requirement can be interpreted in more than one way, it is ambiguous. Choosing the right word is not always easy. Where terms have multiple meanings, it is best to define each word in a glossary based on the document’s audience, scenario, and purpose.

There are inherent problems with “natural language”, which is the way tend to we speak and write. Natural language lends itself to multiple interpretations, includes too many compound sentences, has multiple definitions for words, and uses imprecise adjectives, imprecise conditional instructions, and compound conditions.

On the flip side, structured language combines the language elements with structured programming rules.  For example, structured English uses imperative English verbs, terms are defined in a data dictionary, and reserved words for logic such as “If,” “Then,” and “Else.” Our goal as effective  writers is to strike the right balance between understanding and precision in our project documents.

If you are not a good technical and business writer, you will need to master these skills.  You must be able to write effectively for different contexts and audiences on your projects. Effective writing on your projects requires the following minimum set of written communications skills:

Broad vocabulary. Words are your primary medium for project communications. Make sure you speak the language of the business where you are working. Make sure the project team speaks and writes in a clear way as well.  If the users don’t understand what you are describing, how can they know if it will work for them?

Strong grasp of grammar and style.  Watch your sentence structure and your style of writing.  Most experienced business analysts and project managers can write in a number of styles, depending on what they are documenting and the audience for that document.  Keep sentences simple and write in a concise, plain style to maximize understanding.

Understanding of idioms and terms. Watch the words you use in your project documents. Use words that say what you want to say, no more and no less.  Remember that project documents are intended to be clear and to the point versus being a creative writing exercise with a lot of words that no one understands.

Be sure you are comfortable explaining the basics of information exchange using the sender-receiver model. This model governs both written and oral communications on your projects. Senders package or encode messages that are sent to the receivers. The receivers then unpack or decode the messages. Transmitting gets information from the sender to the receiver for both spoken and written forms of communication. Decoding of the received message is performed by the receiver. This is where the receiver converts the message to a form that they understand.

Happy writing!

Susan Weese

To learn more about how to improve your writing skills, check out Learning Tree’s Business and Report Writing course.

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