Our ability to write well matters. We write to communicate. And communication is one of the important skills for a software tester. As testers, we write a lot – reporting bugs, interesting stuff about our exploration, summary emails to stakeholders etc. Effective writing has better chances of achieving results by conveying what we want to say and doing its job clearly and quickly. But writing well can be difficult! It requires skill, understanding and a good deal of creativity. Our writing acts as our ambassador in our absence. And we’re judged on its quality.
Reading requires effort to be invested by the readers. And everyone is busy. Readers may consume only part of the information provided which can cause a lot of confusion and we may not be there to clear the misunderstanding. Reading is hard work! But the effort can be reduced when the writers put some effort towards writing well.
Write for others, not for yourself.
So we may want to consider the following principles to make reading easier:
- Make your point and then support it.
- Make sure your important message is clear and in the right place.
- Construct straightforward sentences.
- Provide structure to the writing.
- Avoid technical jargon where readers may not know it.
So how can we make effective and efficient writing easier?
Writing at workplace can get easier if you think about your goals, put some thought about who your audience is, gather and organize information before constructing an outline.
Think about your goals
All of us may have a temptation to do several things at once: working on what to say, how to say it and in what order. If we reign this temptation, we can avoid following a recipe for disaster. Writing is best tackled systematically similar to cooking.
Make the purpose of the document as specific as possible. From your standpoint consider:
- why is the report being written?
- what is it for?
- what do you want the end result to be after the report is delivered and read?
From the standpoint of readers consider:
- who is the report for?
- is the group homogeneous or are there multiple needs to be met?
- the reasons these people want the report
- what they want (or do not want) in it, and in what detail?
- the result they look for (what they want to understand, what action they want to take, or what decision they want to be able to make).
You know why you are writing the document when you have thought about your goals from both yours and readers standpoint.
Know your audience
Your document could be read by many. Write for the primary readers since you cannot satisfy all the readers. Different readers have different levels of experience, priorities, and expectations. Understand who your primary audience is. By pre-empting questions from them, you can attempt to provide the specifics they would be interested in and save their time by not mixing “nice-to-haves” with the important points to be conveyed in your writing.
Gathering and organizing the information
In order to remember the ideas in your document, the readers naturally begin to group and summarize the ideas when they start reading the document. If we as writers group it ourselves, it makes it easier for the readers. See more about gathering and organizing the information in my blog post “Structuring information as a pyramid”.
Final words ….
Writing well might seem like a lot of effort at first, but it gets better with practice. Well-written documents can save a lot of time down the road since there would be less confusion. Not only will misunderstandings reduce from such a document, there is a higher chance of getting what you wanted from your document done faster. So write what you mean clearly to get what you want quickly.
- How to Write Reports and Proposals by Patrick Forsyth
- Improve Your Communication Skills by Alan Barker