Writing for Results
Mims, Julian L., III, ARMA Records Management Quarterly
We look upon ourselves as action people--interactive, assertive, dynamic professionals. There is a reason why records and information specialists are people of action. We work with the records wherever they are. The busiest location for records and information is not in the records center or archives, it is in the workplace. Effective records managers are found in the operational mainstream--inventorying electronic records, fine-tuning file systems, analyzing forms usage, designing systems--committed to getting the services out there where they are needed.
As staunch advocates of efficiency and economy, records managers perceive that the closer we bring our professional focus to the point of records creation, the more time and money we save our organization. That revelation draws us into the vortex of everyday operations, directly to the point of data-generation. To get there, however, we must interact with others!
Since it is true that records managers deal with data which is generally in the offices of others, focus on data at its point-of-creation, and relate with people, as much as systems and equipment, it is essential that we be highly competent interpersonal communicators. "Interacts with personnel who create records" should be the first entry on a job description for a records manager. Stated more basically, getting the right information to the right person, at the right time, at the least cost--requires communication!
YOU DON'T THINK OF YOURSELF AS A WRITER, DO YOU?
Much of our work is done by talking with people about their records. We are constantly out there in the offices, conferring with staff about records and information matters. We are doers and talkers and we have to be effective in face-to-face communicating. Perhaps the last image we have of ourselves, individually, is that of a writer.
Yet writing is the major avenue of records management communication while your telephone calls, conversations, conferences, and public presentations unquestionably are important, even more significant are your memoranda, letters, brochures, forms, reports, retention schedules, procedures manuals, and other written instruments. Such writing comprises the standard documentation of your efforts. It provides the operational framework for your program, as well. But especially (for the purposes of this article) the written word is the vehicle which propels your program forward. More than that which is spoken, the written word lingers while speech evaporates, and is well thought out and highly developed--generally providing more details, justification, illustrations, or visuals. This prompts us to concentrate on how we are writing--for this process is a first-class ticket to professional accomplishment.
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPACT-WRITING
Following are seven points that will help you to write for success. These are pragmatic suggestions from the workplace. They focus on the ends, not the means, of business writing.
1) Concentrate on why you are writing
What do you want to happen? Albeit elementary, this is the single, most important point in writing. Zero in on the purpose of your document before you compose the first word. Stay in focus while the document is in-process. And before you finish, hold up the draft to the scrutiny of a "document-purpose" check, to ensure its effectiveness.
When composing answers to essay questions, a surprising number of college students are deficient because they do not fully answer the questions exactly as they are stated. Due to a lack of focus, the students are limiting themselves to inferior answers--before they ever begin writing. They are not tuned in to the precise objective. The same holds true for those in the workplace who write without maintaining mental contact with their intended goal.
Your words must match your purpose. What do you want to be the direct result of your writing?
2) Continuously Focus on the Reader
A major difficulty writers often face is an inability to project their words to the party for whom they are intended. …