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Seb Anthony

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How to improve Manager’s writing skills?


I work for an organisation that needs the managers to respond to customer letters. I am reasonably new in the company and have been quite shocked at some of the letters being sent out. Aside from my usual apostrophe bugbear, spelling is all over the place and they seem to just guess at grammar. There are standard template letters but obviously each letter is personalised, and it goes horribly worng in the personalising!
The managers went on an external business letter writing course last year which was obviously in some way unsuitiable as nothing changed.
We really need the managers to do these letters as there is no one else to do them.
So... How can I send them 'back to school' without completely demoralising them and making them feel foolish? English is the first language for most of them, which makes the problem even worse!

There just aren't the basic skills there, and I am unsure how best to fuill the skills gap.

Please help!
Nikki Brun

12 Responses

  1. Spelin?
    If they write letters using a program like Word encourage them to use the spell check function, and make sure the language is set to English UK to avoid further errors.

  2. Shame Spiral
    I have just realised that having a spell check for Any Answers would be good! Or maybe I should just learn to proof read!

  3. Proof reading
    I do a lot of saless writing like long proposals. I think my written language skills are reasonably good – but I also know I make mistakes.

    I always get someone to proof read important documents before they go out. Its not just about spotting mistakes – but looking for improvements as well. Its much easier – and in my experience more time efficient to proof someone else’s work.

    Try to encourage people to proof each others work, offer to do it yourself and ask others to do it for you – then quietly highlight each others mistakes – you will find over time the number of mistakes people make should reduce.

    Hope this helps


  4. Suggestions …
    It might be worth investing in a copy of Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss as this is packed with helpful tips with grammar, etc. Check Amazon for a copy. Also if writing skills extend into writing emails another book to recommend is How To Write Effective Emails by R. L. Trask (Penguin). The tone is a little harsh but the tips are great.

  5. Writing tips
    Hello Nigel and Nikki,
    You seem both to be challenged by managers writing skills. Have the managers themselves identified that they want to improve or change their writing skills?
    If they are unaware there’s a problem they may well be resistant, and if they are aware their skills are not up to the mark they may feel nervous about being exposed.
    You might want to run a course that focuses on something slightly different e.g. writing to influence, as the main topic but then includes some of the basics as well.
    One of the things that works well is to encourage a coaching/ mentoring arrangement after a workshop so that people can continue to work on their skills. One of our clients has a publishing department who have volunteered to act as mentors.
    If you’d like to get people thinking about their writing skills then they can download a set of short articles called ‘Seven Steps to Writers Heaven’ at

    I’m happy to discuss further if you want more ideas.
    Warm regards,
    Stella Collins
    email:[email protected]

  6. Grammar & Proofreading
    Hi both
    If you care to respond to this e-mail, I will happily send you a copy of a 5-min grammar & proofreading test that I use. I don’t have it in e-format, I’m afraid. Also, I wouldn’t recommend Eats Shoots.. as it’s too long. A shorter ref guide would be better.

  7. Thank you!
    Many thanks for all your suggestions so far.

    The managers are unaware of the issues, and I have just been copied in on an email to a customer that starts ‘Hi, how are you?’ before going into the very formal template. The manager concerned has a masters degree in psychology, and an excellent set of management skills. I will do my best to think of a way to coach her through it (great idea, rather than a course for all) in a way that doesn’t look like I’m checking her homework.

    Jonathan, please email me anything in the way of help! my email address is [email protected].

    Kind regards,

  8. what’s appropriate?
    Hi Nikki
    This is an interesting comment you’ve just posted.
    Was the ‘Hi, How are you?’ totally out of context with a new or unknown customer or was it the manager building rapport with a known customer?

    Focusing on the purpose of any document is key and one of the most useful questions I use is one from Turk and Kirkman’s book Effective Writing. They ask “What will your reader do after reading your paper?
    File it, reach for the phone, write a memo, sigh deeply, build a piece of apparatus, write a cheque, arrange a meeting, sign an order, delegate someone to talk to you, re-use the information in an exam, or apologise to you?”

    This is quite often a turning point for a lot of people when they are thinking about their writing.

    Warm regards,
    Stella Collins

  9. Out of Context!
    Hello Stella,

    The ‘Hi, how are you’ was completely innapropriate. Not only was the customer unknown but they had written in to complain!

    Thank you for the great tip, I will certainly be using that a great deal.

    Kind regards,

  10. Linking with Education
    We have just run a successful programme by linking with a local school (Use the organisation EBLO to forge the link) Having identified the problem we managed to bring in a senior Englist Teacher who ran 4 X 1 hour sessions almost on Q&A basis – grammar punctuation sentence phrasing etc. It was run purely with the team and the teacher and they loved it! The confidential aspect took away the embarrassment.
    Cost was zero as we have a reciprocal agreement to go into the 6th Form for 4 X 1 hour sessions on the world of work etc. If you want more detail [email protected]

  11. A book that helped me
    At one time my written work was terrible and a friend suggested “The Usbourne Book of Better English ISBN 0-86020-705-6. This is an incredibly easy to understand book and helped me tremendously. Regards Steven

  12. I always face problems while

    I always face problems while writing essay online. Sometimes the language make a difference. The better your writing skills are, the better the impression you'll make on the people around you – including your boss, your colleagues, and your clients. You never know how far these good impressions will take you!


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