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Effective Written Communication

Of course, you might have the opportunity to write other types of correspondence as a fitness professional. So how do you make sure you clearly communicate your purpose regardless of the document? No matter which type of writing you do, “get your general ideas on paper or the computer screen—this is your first draft,” says Vogel. “Now go back and edit.”

When editing, consider the following factors:

Key 1: Use a Professional Tone. Your readers will form an opinion of you from the content, the style and, most important, the attitude and tone that come across in your writing. Create a professional, positive tone by using simple, direct language. Adopt a “you-attitude” versus an “I-attitude,” to show that you’re sincere in your focus on the reader rather than on yourself as the writer.

If you need to convey unwelcome information, craft it with special care. When denying a request or sharing bad news, acknowledge the problem or situation and diplomatically explain the background and your position. If responding to a request, make your “no” response clear so there’s no misunderstanding. If you can, suggest an alternative and build goodwill as much as possible by offering to answer any questions the reader may have.

Key 2: Know Your Audience. The intended readers of your correspondence can vary from medical doctors, lawyers and other fitness professionals to clients of all occupations and ages, including children. You must consider their backgrounds, technical expertise and educational levels as well as their mindsets and possible reactions to your writing. This process is no easy task, but the more time you take to identify your audience, the more effective your message will be.

Key 3: Organize Your Information Clearly. Arrange your thoughts so that your correspondence can be read quickly and comprehended easily. Organize the information based on your purpose. For example, when writing instructions, organize your information in sequential, or step-by-step, order. For incident reports, write in chronological order, explaining how the events unfolded. When sharing news and information, use the “6Ws”—who, what, when, where, why and how—to guide you.

Key 4: Use the Right Format. Format refers to how your correspondence is laid out on paper or online. Usually writers choose their formats based on the method of delivery—letter, memo or e-mail. Each type has distinct format conventions (guidelines) for including and placing elements such as the date, addressee, subject line, salutation, message body, closing line, signature block and company letterhead or logo. (See “Correspondence Format Conventions” on page 114 for examples.)

Key 5: Use Visual Elements Carefully. Visual elements—such as font size and type; underlined, italicized or bold text; and bulleted or numbered lists—help emphasize key points and make your correspondence more effective. With all the options available, be careful not to go overboard, especially with fonts. Choose font types based on your document’s purpose, audience and formality. Vogel says to avoid using all caps, which can impede readability and give the wrong impression. “Your goal is to make writing as easy to read as possible,” she says.

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