If a team shifts to more async communication styles, the requirements for successful collaboration change too. Soft skills can often become a secondary thing, and it's getting increasingly more important to have a clear, precise and emotional writing style. But why is writing so important for remote teams?
Well, the first reason is pretty simple: There is just a lot more to write. If a team is moving from quick, short synchronous messaging services to slower but long-form conversation mediums (e.g. Email, Twist), it becomes extra important to have good writing skills and be able to bring points across in a precise way. It also often becomes more important to write documentation, be it technical, processes or simply company workflows which would usually be instilled unintentionally.
Making people excited through text needs practice
Writing some words down is easy. We learned it in school, wrote a bunch of essays and papers, then moved on to writing E-Mails and Slack messages. What isn't easy, is to write in a way that makes people from a variety of backgrounds and languages understand what you want to say. Even more difficult is to express emotions through text and, even without emojis, make people understand the sentiment of a text. When was the last time your heart was racing and you got excited from a bit of text?
Misunderstandings and mundane feelings are symptoms of mediocre writing. The solution for most teams is then to bring face-to-face back: It's the place where people get all the exciting infos, where the difficult stuff is announced, where we hope to get a bit of human connection. It also puts weights on these meetings, can make our whole team unproductive for hours before and after – not a good situation to be in.
The solution is not to bring people back online, it's to make people produce better writing!
Writing easy-to-read texts
The second symptom of more inexperienced writers is to try to sound smart in writing. It's something that a lot of different school systems teach us: The more foreign words, the bigger is the vocabulary, the better is the grade. Working internationally, that won't hold up.
You should look for a specific level of language understanding in every member of the team, but the second part is to produce writing that could be understood by a fifth-grader, to provide the best trade-off between understandability and readability.
This can also help with point 1 and making texts more emotional – if you only have a certain limited vocabulary to choose from, it gets pretty difficult to find synonyms for 'disappointed' or 'amazed'. Texts become simpler to read, easier to write, and more obvious to understand.
Being able to stem the weight
There is another valuable skill when it comes to writing: Writing a lot of good text in a small amount of time. The best writers I know can take a topic, their research, and do the manual work in an extremely short amount of time with an extremely high grade of quality.
You will soon come to realize that async remote teams rely on a lot of different writing:
- Technical Documentation
- Communication / Discussions
- Planning and Updates
- Workflows and Improvements
- Documents / Projects / Reports
This is something that can almost only be trained with experience and more writing, and – by the way – has absolutely nothing to do with typing speed and more about being able to bring thoughts through a keyboard into a content writing system.
More writing = faster writing = more writing.
How to become a better writer
- Write and read every day (well, that one is easy)
- Write first, edit after
- Take breaks, especially if you have been writing for a while
- Use a tool like Grammarly to get rid of errors
- Take a course
- Make 3-4 revisions before you send something
- Look for synonyms for words that you use
- Ask for feedback
Again, we think that writing might be one of the core skills of this decade, especially for remote work. The same way that people trained their soft skills for the office area, now is the time to polish your writing skills.