Written Communication

Learning Outcomes

  • Discuss written technologies useful for communication

Technology has enriched and enhanced today’s organizational communication. For the most part, computer-aided communication obeys all the same rules as face-to-face or written communications. It has an upward, downward, or horizontal organizational direction, and it can facilitate one-on-one or group conversations. It takes the place of so many memos and letters, and it’s made communication so much faster. That said, it’s not without its drawbacks. Let’s take a look at how technology has affected today’s organizational communication.


A never-ending inbox of unread email seems to be the bane of every desk worker’s existence. Still, as a communication tool, email is brimming with benefits. It takes that time consuming written communication and adds some speed and efficiency. They can be

  • Written and edited quickly
  • Stored as drafts or as sent communications
  • Sent to one or a thousand people with a mouse click
  • Read at the receiver’s convenience
  • Distributed widely for a fraction of what it would cost to send a message in hard copy

Email programs feature “preview windows” and “preview panes” that allow receivers to get a glimpse of a message and decide if it’s worth their time to continue reading. Other bells and whistles of email applications allow users to file incoming messages into groups depending on subject or sender, and flag those messages that need attention by a certain date. As far as communications go, emails are becoming easier to manage every day.

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Still, email has its drawbacks. New messages pop into inboxes all day and distract workers from doing other tasks that need a deeper focus. It’s not a good form of communication for messaging that goes along with company layoffs, plant closings, or any other message that requires a level of empathy and support. And there’s no ability to email non-verbal communication along with the email, which means that the receiver could find them cold and impersonal. Even when emojis are included. :)

Instant Messaging

Chat between three colleagues collaborating on a project. Colleague M: How are things looking with the PDF, Corey? We'd love to have it by first thing tomorrow morning, but I understand if it's turned into a bigger project. Coworker C: Yes sorry I didn't reply. I've been on the road all day. I have it done and I'll send it as soon as I get to a WiFi connection. Coworker M: Oh, awesome! Thanks! Coworker T: Perfect! I can probably get it all wrapped up (TOC etc) tonight then. Coworker M: Amazing! Thank you both!

Figure 1. Chat between three collaborating team members

Instant messaging (IM) is becoming increasingly popular as a business communication tool, especially for more informal communication. Some examples of widely used IM services are Google Talk (commonly called Google Chat), Slack, Jabber, Spark, and many more. The advantages of IM are that messages are sent and received instantly in real time and responses are organized in a “conversation” format that supports two-way communication. Colleagues working on a shared project but separated by distance can chat just as if they are in the cubicle next door. During conference calls with external parties, internal team members can pass information “privately” to one another to comment on what is being said.

When using IM and SMS communication tools, it is important to remember that even though these messaging systems feel more informal, you are still acting in a professional setting. When chatting across an internal IM system with a coworker who is a personal friend, it’s likely acceptable for you to omit capitalization and punctuation marks. However, when talking with a coworker or manager about a company-related topic, you should to communicate in a professional manner.

While IM and SMS are great digital communication tools, there are some disadvantages to these methods. Some companies do not even allow the use of them due to security and liability concerns. Sending company information over public IM services could be risky. Also, IMs and texts create distraction for many employees, especially if engaged in a conversation with an important customer or trying to IM while driving.


Companies often provide private, organization-wide information networks that look like a website. These networks are called intranets, and they provide pages where employees can get the latest company news, view calendars of events and access important documents.

Intranet is a “pull” communication, requiring that employees go out to look at what’s being stored there. This is different from the “push” effect of email or instant messaging, where the message pops up in front of the receiver and demands to be read. This makes Intranet sites great for information that’s not timely, or, if it is, it should be accompanied by an email that points receivers to it. It also cuts down on the number of emails that need to be sent—forms and information that are normally emailed to individual employees can be found in one place.

Social Networking

When Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram took off as the world’s social media platforms of choice, it was only a matter of time before organizational communication innovators developed a tool that companies could use. Soon, platforms like Jive (a social business software) and Yammer (a private social network) made their way onto employees’ desktops.

These workplace-focused social media tools allow employees to share information the same way they do on Facebook and Instagram, but use of them is restricted to employees only. Companies can encourage their employees to share pictures and ideas with one another, and others can post comments and encouragement in the comments section below.

The advantage of this kind of communication is that it’s very organic. Employees can share things that they’re proud of and excited about, and other employees can encourage them along. Managers can use it as a vehicle to recognize great work. Many have a polling tool that allows managers to gauge the thoughts and feelings of their teams.

The disadvantage is that every employee has access to the platform, and the option to use it inappropriately is always available. Companies usually assign a communication administrator to monitor comments and quickly remove any disparaging posts that might be created by disgruntled employees.

Practice Question

The popularity of smartphones and other mobile devices have only made these technology-based methods of communications more popular and accessible and, as a result, the line between work time and off time has become less clear. Employees no longer have to be at their desks to be available. Technology has indeed shaped the way we communicate within an organization, and even how we operate.


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