Tips for Writing for an Organization — or Another Person
August 30, 2017
by Chris Sarachilli
Writing is a skill most of us practice every day, whether it’s through email, business letters, internal memos, text messages, or a personal blog. And, for the majority of these cases, that message comes directly from the writer and is signed as such (see the byline above).
Sometimes, though, we have to write a message that comes from someone else — or something else, such as in a brochure for your organization. Even if this isn’t one of your primary responsibilities, it’s a good skill to develop; volunteering to write your department’s web description or help your boss write a summary for the annual report won’t go unnoticed.
Become a Historian
It may seem obvious, but before you can write in another voice, you have to know what that voice is. Familiarize yourself with as much current and past writing as you can. Website copy, emails, memos, letters, books, articles, brochures, publications — the medium will change depending on what you’re writing for, but read whatever is available. It’s helpful to break down a few pieces and analyze them, but you’ll still gain a stronger sense of your speaker’s voice simply by reading.
Even if you intend to craft a new voice for your organization, you typically want to make this transition gradual, which means having a deep understanding of its voice. Write in the current style, then piece by piece introduce the changes necessary to bring your organization’s voice to where it needs to be.
Who Am I Writing to, and Who Are They Hearing from?
As you’re writing, think of your audience and purpose (which you should be doing, anyway!). Who is the message for? What information do they already have, what do I need to explain to them, and what information is needed for that explanation?
When writing for someone/something else, though, you also need to consider another factor: Who is the speaker? Is this a letter from your boss to stakeholders? An appeal letter from someone who has benefited from your nonprofit? The disembodied voice of your company?
The person or entity from which the message is arriving impacts how your audience interprets that message. Even if the meaning of the letter is the same, a message from the CEO reads differently than a message from an employee or from your company as a whole.
Who’s To Blame for This? (No one!)
Remember, when you’re writing in the voice of your organization, the general public typically won’t know it’s you writing the message. If there are any errors, either typographical or factual, your entire team is on the hook.
While you should always strive for accuracy, it’s even more critical to be as clear and accurate as possible when the message you’re writing isn’t coming from you. If you’re unsure about a claim, either fact check it to the point that you’ve erased all uncertainty, or take it out. If you’re writing in someone else’s voice, then always get their approval before you send the message out. If you’re writing for your team, then it’s always good practice to run it by everyone for approval, as well.
And if you do make a mistake, try not to fret too much. It’s not like it’s something you said.
Chris Sarachilli is communications manager with Goodwin College of Professional Studies, where he manages social media, web content, marketing, and analytics.