The Write Stuff
Writing is difficult, stressful, and worst of all, inescapable for just about every job. But the beauty of good writing is it doesn’t take extra effort. Here’s how
By Curtis Haugan, Representative
Deep down I’m convinced that you’re a capable writer.
This was the basic message I gave while teaching a class on writing at our annual stewards conference years ago. There was some skepticism on this point, a few eyes rolled, insecurities became palpable.
The class was predominantly male, and they were mostly construction workers. More than one person shared that the reason they worked in the trades was so they could avoid things like writing, or wearing a tie, or being stuffed in a cubicle next to a bunch of white collar stiffs.
Tools and equipment—this was their happy place. But words. Well, they were difficult, stressful, and worst of all, inescapable.
Because the truth is, you can’t get out of having to write. Whether a text, a tweet, or writing your morning job hazard analysis, try as you might, it’s part of your job.
But the beauty of good writing is it doesn’t take extra effort. In fact, the opposite is true. It’s about putting what you want to communicate down on paper in a way that can be totally understood—and for it to be understood it needs to be clear, direct, and concise.
In my job as a representative, I read statements, emails, inquiries, and novel-length text messages every day. Most of the time I have to take great pains to understand what exactly someone is attempting to communicate.
Big words, unnecessary grammar, blurred tenses—it’s like putting jewelry on a mannequin; it may look fancy, but there’s nothing real behind it.
The best thing you can do to get your point across is to write it clearly and in your own voice. Don’t do an impression of anyone. Be you.
And don’t beat around the bush. Being direct with your writing will benefit those reading it.
I used to be a news reporter, and the first thing they taught in journalism school was that readers skim what you’re writing. That’s why the most important information is always at the top of the story. Don’t be afraid to get your point across right off the bat—your reader will thank you.
Also, don’t let your message get lost in a smattering of unneeded sentences and tangents. Be concise.
If you’re emailing your foreman because you need next Tuesday off, get to the point and ask for it, and then leave it alone. Does your foreman need to know about your in-laws’ 12-hour drive from St. Albert, and the burrito you ate last night? No, they don’t.
More often than not, less is more if you want to be understood.
By the end of the class, I was blown away by the quality of the writing from the group. The task given them was to simply describe coming home from work at the end of the day.
As the group listened to one particularly burly construction worker’s recounting of opening the door of his home to his pregnant wife and his small children, his voice broke and tears rolled down his cheeks.
Everybody understood him perfectly.