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Does Kindness in Writing Matter?

Q&A with High-Value Writing's Christopher Nettles High-Value Writing welcomes new Head of Operations Christopher Nettles! To learn more about Christopher's approach to writing with respect, empathy, and high value, we asked him these questions:

Q: What motivated you to join High-Value Writing and work to help others write with clarity and intention? A: After many years of watching friends and colleagues struggle with workplace writing, this opportunity presented itself and I had to join in. The timing was right: Attitudes about writing are shifting across many industries and I felt like my experience could really make an impact here, helping people improve their writing.

A simple gesture like “Have a great evening", or "Have a great weekend", at the end of potentially problematic email often yields a positive result.

Q: Can you share more about some of those struggles? A: I think everyone struggles with email - not just the quantity, but the quality as well. We’ve all got way too much email to deal with on a daily basis. Ironically, it’s the lack of quality that drives the quantity. We’re all so busy and we tell ourselves “I don’t have time for this right now” and we often reply back to emails with quick answers, or suggestions, or updates just to get those emails out of our inboxes and feel like we’ve made some “progress”.

But that strategy actually leads to more email because we often fail to provide everything our reader needs. They reply back hastily because they’re also too busy, then we do the same, and so on…ugh, more emails! Also related to the topic of email is the “To:” line. I find this one particularly curious because I often hear people say things like “I sent <insert person or team> an email last week and I didn’t get a response. Many of us have been emailing for years, or “gulp” decades in my case, and we still get confused by the “To:” line. When I hear that complaint, I’ll go look at the email and discover it was sent to 5 or 6 people. In these cases, everyone probably thought someone else would reply—and in the end, no one did. Q: What’s your favorite writing hack (or strategy)? A: Kindness. As our work relationships grow and mature, we learn certain nuances from the people we communicate with—like tone and style. I’ve had many situations where my knowledge of a particular person helped inform my communication choices. A simple gesture like “Have a great evening", or "Have a great weekend", at the end of potentially problematic email often yields a positive result. Just be nice…it works! Q: What’s one way you meet your reader’s needs when writing for work? A: I try to look at the task from the reader's perspective and provide only the needed information. Too little information is not very helpful and, honestly, not very nice to make the reader do extra work to figure out my intention. Too much information is also not great because it can add additional confusion; I try to provide only what’s needed.

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