Lessons Learned #7: If You Don’t Use It, You Lose It

Those of you who are 50 or older, might assume from the title of this issue that I am referring to some part of our anatomy.  And though there may be some truth to that, I am applying it to a faculty of the mind, a learned skill.

People are losing their writing skills. The evidence is overwhelming!  Look around you, terrible writing is everywhere to be found.  Text messaging has become one of the primary means of communication.  It started being used by young adults in social interaction and has gained acceptance in the business world.  This form of communication, with the main advantage of being able to send bursts of instant messages directly to individuals, uses abbreviations, codes and acronyms instead of words in complete sentences with full meanings.

The effect of the short messaging habit has spilled over into emails and other correspondence.  I am seeing more abbreviations, truncated words, and incomplete thoughts today than ever before.

To make matters worse, the proliferation of software that completes words and auto-corrects spelling has messed up our communications even more.  Since messages are composed quickly (with little or no review), it is often necessary to try to decipher what the sender meant to write when strange messages are received as a result of word changes made by the software.

Please forgive me if I sound “old fashioned” or “traditional”.  But stop to think for a moment about the implications for your business communications.  In construction, where the stakes are very high, why would you rely on communication that is incomplete, vague, or ambiguous, and subject to misinterpretation?

I must admit, I had to adapt to text messaging myself, out of a need to stay in touch with my children and other family members.  I have no problem with text messaging in personal settings, provided you don’t mind having to correct mistakes that are bound to take place often as I mentioned above.

Your business communications, however, deserve to be taken seriously.  Writing is a skill which, like other skills, are the result of habits that need to be practiced in order to keep from losing them.

I have reviewed countless project records in my work as a consultant.  Much of what I have read has been ineffective; confusing, not clear, or difficult to understand.  I believe that one of the reasons many people in this industry don’t document when they should is that they simply have lost the skill to write.  It’s sad, but true.

You may have heard it said that “writing is thinking”.  If that’s the case, then what does today’s writing say about the quality of our thoughts?

Remember: if you don’t use it, you lose it!

(Take action to improve the writing skills of your employees for construction – schedule an in-house seminar for your company).

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

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