Eye halve a spelling checker – communication skills for students writing assignments

A key skill for all Facilities Managers, if not everyone in the working environment is Communication. Communication can take several different forms – it can be verbal, visual, written and of course, non-verbal and as Facilities Managers we are involved in using all four types. It does not matter which form of communication you are using the key principle is that you get your message across effectively and efficiently so that everyone you are communicating with can understand your message.

For learners undertaking an IWFM qualification, most, if not all assignments are presented using written communication, and so, the focus of this blog will be on how to improve your written communication skills.

You should always try and ensure that your assignments are written in a way that enables you to express yourself clearly, use language with precision and, where necessary, construct a logical argument.

Written communication involves three main elements:

  • structure (the way the content is laid out)
  • style (the way it is written)
  • content (what you are writing about)

A good structure will help you express yourself more clearly. Ideally, you should plan your assignments out first. Clarify your thoughts so you know what you are going to write about for each section before you start writing. Check what the assessment criteria or tasks for Level 3 and 4 are actually asking you to do. Identify the key points. Look at the active verbs – do you need to just identify something, describe it in detail or evaluate it. We will consider the use of active verbs in a later blog. Use short words, sentences and paragraphs. George Orwell suggested that you should never use a long word where a short one will do and this applies to your assignments just as much now as it did when Orwell was writing ‘1984’.

In terms of the style, think about whether your assignment is concise. It should get straight to the point – this will also help you with your word count, a topic we will consider in a later blog. Think about the layout and the font you use. You should use no smaller than a 12 point font and choose one that is easy to read – Times New Roman, Tahoma and Calibri (this is written in Tahoma) are all advisable whereas fancy fonts such as Comic Sans, Brushscript and Harlow Solid are all more difficult to read. Space your lines and paragraphs, again to make your assignment easier to read. Ideally spacing should be at least 1.15 and there should be a double space between paragraphs.

Finally, think about the actual content. Some of this will come from careful planning in the first place – thinking in advance about what you want to write and planning your assignment carefully. You should also think carefully about the grammar you use and your spelling. You should try to ensure that your grammar and spelling is as accurate as possible. You would not want to present a report to your senior management team that was full of grammatical and spelling errors and you should feel the same about your assignments. Microsoft Word has a spelling and grammar check – use it. Do make sure you have it set to ‘British English’ and not ‘American English’ as there are subtle differences between the two. However, a word of warning – read the poem below. None of the spelling errors would have been picked up by the spell checker!

Eye halve a spelling checker,
It came with my pea see.
It plainly marks four my revue
Miss steaks I dew knot sea.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the era rite
Its really ever wrong.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

I’ve scent this massage threw it,
And I’m shore your pleased too no
Its letter prefect in every weigh;
My checker tolled me sew

Sauce unknown

Check your punctuation. The use of the apostrophe presents problems for many people but incorrect use can make an assignment difficult to read. Apostrophes should be used to denote ownership such as in the phrase ‘The organisation’s workforce’ i.e. the workforce belonging to the organisation, but not in plurals as in the phrase ‘There are many companies in the UK’ which I have frequently seen written as ‘There are many company’s in the UK’ even ‘There are many companie’s in the UK’ You should also not use apostrophes in acronyms – on many occasions I have seen SLA’s and KPI’s written. Neither and SLA or a KPI own anything so these should be written as SLAs and KPIs.
So, a final tip: Proof-read your work before you submit it and ideally, ask someone else to proof read it as well. This will serve two purposes: firstly, they may see spelling and grammatical errors you did not see and secondly, if they understand what you have written you have succeeded in communicating clearly, efficiently and effectively. If they do not understand, perhaps you need to go back and review what you have written and remember, the easier your assignment is to read, the easier it is to mark!

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