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Good Penmanship

by Randall Craig on April 1, 2009

Filed in: Blog, Communication, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Social Media

Tagged as: , , ,

If you had gone to school in the 1800’s, you would have learned important skills… like penmanship. Good penmanship required concentration, attention to detail and many hours of practice; it indicated that you were cultured, educated, and serious about what you had to say. It spoke to our ability to communicate.

While we may not “write” the way we once did, the skills that it taught are just as important today as they were back then. Yet if we aren’t learning these skills through penmanship, how are we doing so? Through instant messaging, “tweeting”, and quickie emails? Unfortunately, this is usually the case, and unfortunately, concentration and attention to detail suffer.

To recapture some of the benefits of penmanship, consider these ideas:

  • Try writing your notes longhand: while painful at first, this will help you organize your thoughts far more effectively than cut-copy-paste. (You can always edit as you transcribe into a computer.)

  • For communications that matter, spend more than the minimum time composing your thoughts. Instead of 10 minutes to write a standard status update, take 30 minutes to write the perfect one. As you get “better” at writing perfect documents, you will also get faster at it… but at a far higher quality level.

  • Remember that penmanship was partly an art form, and that the form itself improved the perception of the underlying content. Before you send off your next document, consider whether the way it looks reflects positively or not.

This week’s action item: It isn’t just the creation of ideas that we do quickly, but also the consumption of them. In our quest to scan every byte of information that comes our way, we inevitably lose the nuance – and sometimes even the point – of what is being said. This week, choose to spend more time on critical tasks: both creating information and consuming it. While penmanship may very well be a long-lost art, our ability to communicate cannot be.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)



Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at and

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