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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Experience of Time When Writing in the Workplace

Often while teaching business writing, the class discussion would rightly veer off into a discussion of time management.  That’s a natural move because college execs-to- be were often in school and had jobs at the same time, so they said the phrase “time management” often.

We all do in our respective ways, but we don’t talk much about the management of time in terms of how technology has changed our experience of time and the pace of our human experience affected by technology and the demands of the workplace that often require writing.

There are two chief considerations to bear in mind when thinking about workplace writing and time:  writing takes longer than we want it to and the natural pace of human experience matches more comfortably to a healthily beating heart than a zooming fraction of a second transmission via the internet.

We call the speed and colors of technology for word processing and transmission the flashiest form of bells and whistles right now, but the dynamics that separate the bells and whistles from substance and persuasion are still the same.  For all of the speed and tools available to us, the dynamic of persuasion still rests upon how well you understand the reader, how well you present your message in light of a benefit for that reader, and whether you make as few mistakes as possible so that the style of your message does not hinder the reader’s ability to comprehend it.

Most of the time, good style is simply meant to keep the writer’s presence in the background and the reader’s attention in the forefront.  The dynamic that runs that persuasive power is simple courtesy. That answer is so simple—so easy—that we don’t want it to be true.  We want the answer to be complex and mysterious, because if it is complex and hard to understand we have a built-in reason to fail at reaching a reader with a message or information that needs to be integrated into the workplace experience called productivity, and, yes, time management.  However, good business writing is based on the dynamic of courtesy, and the more courteous you are the more naturally you assume a position that will cause your reader to trust you. 

The part of this answer that is hard is that it requires the writer to be more and more selfless while becoming more and more interested in what the reader needs and wants to know.  To do that—to do that—one must be assured that he/she understands who  the reader is and can separate the twin goals that run simultaneously through all business writing:  what purpose does the document being created need to achieve and what benefit does the reader need to receive in order to accept the intended purpose of the document.  In short, give the reader a benefit while you are trying to achieve your persuasive purpose for the document and you will have a much stronger hope of succeeding.

Naturally the question follows:  how well do you understand other people?  Can you prove you understand them or are you rationalizing your inclinations and making the situation fit what you want it to be?  Ultimately, through trial and error you can find out who other people are, how adept you are at perceiving who they are, and what it is they need that you can provide while also fulfilling your workplace goals. To do that, one must simply grow in mindfulness about writing, about people, about using words, about what punctuation really is, and how facing your fears by acknowledging them can help you become a fearless writer in the workplace whatever your innate relationship is with language.  The difference between business writing and all other kinds of writing is that it can learned.

Daphne writes about many topics.  Her latest book is Christmas in Fountain City

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