HOW TO COPE WITH READING AND WRITING OFFICIAL CORRESPONDENCE
Many people spend a significant proportion of their working live reading and absorbing information as well as providing it in the form of memos, letters, and reports. Learn how to cope with these well, and you will save a great deal of time.
Learning To Skim-Read
Everybody wastes time reading sentences that link the important points made in text. Learn to skim-read from paragraph to paragraph, identifying the keyword in each. Effective skim-reading requires practice. Start with a piece of text, and read every word. As you go along, underline one keyword in each paragraph, then go back over the text and see if you can reconstruct the sense from the keyword you have chosen. Repeat on new pieces of text until eventually, you can identify keywords quickly and easily.
When reading reports and articles, try to get an overview of their contents first. Read an introduction or summary, and take time to look at the list of contents. If you have a long report to read, start by glancing through it from beginning to end, noting the headings and lengths of different sections. When you read the report in full – either immediately or later on – you will then find you have a good idea of its contents and structure, helping you to read more quickly and efficiently. The same applies to newspapers and magazines. If you do not have enough time to read your daily paper, make a mental note of the main headlines, and skim the digest section.
Coping With Writer’s Block
If you have trouble starting to write, vary your approach until you find the system that works for you. A report does not have to be written in its final order, and maybe less daunting if you divide it into small sections.
Introductions and conclusions can be difficult, so try starting whenever inspiration strikes – the important thing is to get something down in writing from which to work. It is often easier to “top and tail” a report after writing the main text.
Cutting Out Paperwork
To cit down on the amount of writing you have to do, learn to deal effectively with incoming correspondence such as memos, and faxes. Your response may merit a lengthy reply, but it may be more appropriate to ad a quick, handwritten note on the original before passing it on; this is much quicker and saves on paper.
Delegate the opening of your mail to your assistant of a junior member of your team. Brief them of what they can deal with themselves, and how to prioritize items for your attention. This way you can reduce the volume of paper that you handle yourself.
Points To Remember
The main purpose when reading is to understand the material.
Not everything can be understood fully after one read. It takes time to absorb a long list of points, so relevant documents must always be read carefully.
Skim-reading is generally suitable for documents such as memos; not for more detailed material.
Readers need to be led through a report, so directional signposts should be included.
A document should always be written with the reader in mind.
DO’S AND DON’TS
Do prepare an outline before you write
Do read your work as if it is new to you.
Do keep in mind the point you are making while you write, and use clear language.
Don’t stare at a blank computer screen – write anything.
Don’t make your text too complex or too simple for your reader.
Don’t pad your work with irrelevant facts.
Underline key phrases in reports you have read.
Skim-read the headlines in your daily newspaper.
Never delay dealing with any written material – it will just mount up.
Keep essential material separate from your other documents and papers.