Category Archives: Career Advice

How to write so you won’t be ignored

This post originally appeared on Development Intern, and is re-printed here with permission.

This year, you will write something that almost nobody will read. You will probably write several things that nobody will read. Write with the assumption that no one wants to read what you’re writing: convince them that they should.

A lot of people do not communicate effectively. In all offices, in all organisations and all sectors, you will receive hundreds of written documents that are confusing or boring (this includes e-mails!) and, in the end, don’t actually achieve much at all. It can be very frustrating.

This is not something that particularly afflicts interns–many managers and supervisors suffer the same issue–but it is an excellent asset for younger people looking to make an impression. Many people will tell university students to learn technical skills like data analysis or engineering or ICT knowledge. This is sensible advice. But I do think that it’s worth remembering simpler skills, ones that don’t necessarily require a stay in university. (In fact, academic training is probably one of the main culprits for bad communication in the field of international development.) After all, everybody complains about jargon and acronymitis – let’s do something about that.

I recently put together a short presentation on this topic as part of my fellowship programme with the Grameen Foundation. It’s a short series of tips and tricks that are well worth remembering.

We live in a world that is spectacularly, almost absurdly saturated with information. If you want people to pay attention to anything you are adding to this over-abundance, you’d better make sure it’s clear and easy to read.

This borrowed heavily from the terrific book I mentioned at the end, Writing That Works. I heartily recommend it to all the development interns out there. The long quote is well-known but, in my mind, unbeatable and was written by the great Gary Provost.

Featured image shows a fountain pen and paper. Photo by Joel Montes de Oca.