Communicating with nursing colleagues is a crucial skill that can really create an impression – good or bad. If you don’t think you have the writing skills to communicate clearly with your colleagues, it’s time to pick it up.

Writing something like a memo is intimidating until you realize your readers just want to know what’s going on and they want all the details to make their lives easier. If you were talking to them face-to-face, how would you explain it? Jot down those notes and then turn that into a memo.

How can you write the most effective memo?

Decide Why You’re Writing It

If you aren’t sure what your message is, your readers really won’t get it. Before you start writing, think about what you need to say and why. What information are you trying to convey? If you’re announcing a lunchtime seminar, clearly state that up front. Are you detailing a new policy? Spell out for them what this new policy means and why they need to know about it.

Format Your Memo for Readability

A text-packed memo is overwhelming for readers. Break up your message with bold headers, short paragraphs, indents, and bulleted lists. Lots of white space is good on a memo because readers can identify the message and the important tasks quickly. Keep sentences short and language clear.

Provide All the Information

If you were getting this memo, what would you need to know? Write your memo with that question in mind. Don’t assume people know what the new policy is – tell them the details and when it goes into effect. Are you inviting staff to a meeting? Let them know the location, timing, and who is running the meeting. If the meeting is anytime between 11 am and 1 pm, tell them if lunch is provided or if they are welcome to bring their own. Include all contact information so people don’t have to go searching. A good memo answers questions and provides necessary information.

See also
Inclusion, Part 2: Changing the Culture

Don’t Add Fluff

Give readers the information they need, but if your memo is too long, it probably won’t be read completely. Let your colleagues know that a new schedule is being posted and that they need to attend a meeting about it, but don’t go into the details about all the committees that met last fall to make these decisions. Tell them what they need to know and give them a person to contact if they have additional questions.

Tell Them What They Have to Do

Readers want to know the bottom line – what is expected from them? Tell them exactly that. Do they need to RSVP? Do they need to register for an event? Do they need training to comply with new standards? Clearly state what needs to be done and by what exact date.

Read It Out Loud

Reading any written communication out loud is one of the surest ways to find errors or wording that could cause confusion. If you stumble over a sentence, your readers will, too. Check for grammar and spelling errors. Triple check all numbers you include and make sure you have names of people, places, and organizations spelled correctly. People do judge you on how you come across with words. Do everything you can to make a good, professional impression.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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