9 Ways to Quickly Improve Your Writing Skills as a Software Tester

In the last article, we discussed “Effective Communication Skills”; how important it is for Software testers and learned how verbal communication can be improved.

In this article, we will continue the same series of thoughts where I will try to share my views on written communication and few tips to improve it from a QA professional perspective.

Let’s first list down the basic questions related to “Effective Writing Skills”: 

  • What does written communication mean?
  • What are the types of written communication?
  • What is the necessity to have good writing skills?
  • What are the factors to determine if you have excellent writing skills?
  • And, finally, how to improve your written communication skills?

I will try answering all the above questions with the help of examples in this article.

writing-skills-for-the-testers

Who can benefit from this article?

Anyone who is a part of the software testing world or wants to be a part of it.

Let’s understand the basic concept first.

Business Communication and Its Types:

Communication is a two-way mutual process where one person conveys his or her ideas or messages to the other person. The other person then provides feedback.

written-communication

Written Communication is a way to convey your thoughts or messages using written words or symbols. In case of written communication, the medium is anything that supports writing, like Blogs / Reports / Memos or even email.

As written communication is a way of recording the information permanently, it is considered more credible and is used to convey complex information like data or requirements in case of Software projects.

Business communication is one of the types of written communication happening in organizations. Written or Business communication can be further divided into Formal and Informal Communication.

written-communication-1

Informal Business Communication is the communication that happens in an organization which is professional but not mandatorily formal.

In a QA team, we send tons of emails during a working day. Out of which few emails, we circulate within our internal team to convey some information or ask the status. Such emails can be counted as Informal Business communication.

Recommended read => How to Write Effective Emails to QA (or any) Team

Formal Business Communication is a way of communicating with the help of written records which are official and professional.

Examples of formal communication can be the test documents such as Test Strategy / Test Summary Reports. Another example can be an email sent to the client requesting for extension of the testing period.

Formal business communication can also be divided into two basic types- Internal and External.

1) Internal Communication happens within the organization. If all teams involved in delivering software to the client – such as Architects, Business analysts, testers, developers are part of the same organization, then the written communication happening between these teams is Internal Communication.

An example of Internal Written Communication can be as simple as a bug report or an email exchanged by solution architect explaining a requirement which is not shared with the client.

2) External Communication happens out of the organisation. Any communication which happens between Testing team and Client can be External Written Communication.

Why writing skill is important for a QA person?

Let’s see why the writing skills are important to a QA person with the help of the below real life example.

Example:

Consider yourself a Test Manager or Lead who wants to hire software testers to your team.

The job requirement is: minimum 1 to 2 years experience in testing. You start scanning the resumes. You come across two resumes and observe that both the candidates have the same experience and both fit in the criteria.

The summaries on their resumes are as below:

Resume 1:

Summary of Experience: 2 Year of experience in manual and automation testing. Worked on system and functional and regression testing. Now looking for a new opportunity to apply my skills in a more challenging job.

Resume 2:

Summary of Experience: Dedicated and Experienced Software Tester with more than 2 years of experience in Manual and Automation Testing including Functional and Regression Testing. Presently looking for a Functional Tester position to enhance my skills and advancement in career.

Now tell me by a first glance which resume will you select?

You may interview both candidates but the point I am trying to make here is that ‘Resume 2’ will create an amazing first impression. The reason being it is well written, simple and grammatically correct which gives a very positive impression about the candidate. Poor or grammatically incorrect writing may create a negative impression about the candidate and the resume itself may get rejected in the initial stage itself.

The reason being it is well written, simple and grammatically correct which gives a very positive impression about the candidate. Poor or grammatically incorrect writing may create a negative impression about the candidate and the resume itself may get rejected in the initial stage itself.

A resume is just one simple example which shows why writing skills are important. Believe me, we testers write a lot. All the business / client related work is dependent on written communication exclusively. You might not have observed but most of the people in Software Testing spend a considerable amount of their time during the day in writing even though we are not professional authors. :)

Also read => The Beginner’s Guide to Writing a Perfect Software Testing Resume

Let’s look at few examples of what a QA person writes?

  • Various Test Documents – Strategy/plan/test cases/summary
  • Status/Progress Reports
  • Defect logs
  • Presentations
  • Job Specifications
  • Resumes
  • Knowledge Tutorials
  • Emails – we send different kinds of emails
    • Status/progress emails
    • Notification emails
    • Support Emails
    • Escalation emails
    • Informal Emails

The list is never ending and hence it is of utmost importance to jot down your thoughts on the paper clearly and effectively.

How communication skill can make a difference in your career:

Effective Writing Skills do make a difference in one’s career. How? Let’s see.

#1. Getting a new job or promotion:

While applying for a job, the first thing which gives information about you is the Cover letter or Resume. A well-written cover letter and resume can increase your chances of being called for an interview. Similarly, good writing skills help you in getting the desired promotion since it always gives a positive impression about your profile and puts you in the front row.

#2. Trustworthiness:

A person who makes many mistakes in his or her writing cannot be held responsible in the professional world. Poor or incorrect writing can provide misleading information and hence a person having poor writing skills is always believed as less intelligent or incapable.

People with better writing skills are considered more responsible and trustworthy. Better writing skills increase your chances of growth in the company.

#3. Builds Confidence:

For a QA person – it’s very important to write the Defect logs with simple, clear and accurate details. Similarly, Test conditions, test plans must be written in a neat and concise way in order to avoid unnecessary confusions and rework.

Writing accurate and good Test deliverables not only portray you as a knowledgeable tester but it builds confidence about your proficiency and professionalism.

#4. Enhance Relationships:

A QA person must be a good team player. A QA person has the responsibility of certifying the E2E (end to end) software. In the process, it is very important to build relationships with various people like developers/clients and colleagues. Clear, to the point and easily understood write-ups help you build relationships at your workspace.

What are the factors to decide if you are an excellent communicator?

Let’s take a quiz.

Please answer questions with a simple YES or NO and note down the count of each.

1) I often find it difficult to effectively convey my thoughts through writing.

2) I tend to handle matters over the phone or meeting the person face to face rather than writing an email.

3) My write-ups are not arranged in a logical order or order of importance according to the reader’s need.

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4) I usually get a response on my write-ups asking for unanswered queries since my write-ups provide incomplete information and have open questions.

5) I try to avoid unnecessary details or misleading information.

6) Mostly I do not invest my time in reviewing my first draft or editing my write-ups before sending.

7) I do not check for correct spelling and punctuation for my write-ups

8) I do not pay attention to selecting words which are simple and have apt meaning

9) My write-ups are not attractive and I do not use headings, bullet points, highlights etc.

10) My write-ups are not consistent throughout in terms of fonts, font sizes etc.

11) People usually do not understand what I want to say from my write-up.

12) I hardly use diagrams or charts to depict my thoughts.

13) I don’t think before putting down my idea on paper and about the best possible way to express it.

14) My write-ups are too long or too short with a lot of unrelated information.

15) My write-ups are not concise.

16) Many times my Manager asks me to revisit my write-up, correct it and resend it.

If most of your answers are YES, it is time to brush up your writing skills and learn some tips to improve it. Investing some effort in improving your writing skills can help you a lot in your career.

How to Improve Your Writing Skill as a Tester

I have shortlisted two common write-ups from a QA’s daily routine with the help of which I will try to explain how to improve writing skills.

Example 1: You have been asked to submit a ‘Testing Progress Report’ while you are half way through your testing.

Example 2: You are blocked in your testing due to a Critical Severity 1 Bug/Defect. Now you have to log it to the system as well as Report it to the developer.

Below are few points which can help in improving your writing skills:

#1) Always keep in mind the purpose of writing :

  • Think about the purpose, agenda and goal for your write-up before starting it. It will help you decide the flow, format, style, tone, layout of the write-up.
  • Make sure you achieve the goal at the end of the write-up.
  • Always use examples, diagrams while you are explaining new ideas.

Example 1: Testing Progress Report

The purpose of your Report is to give your readers all the needed details such as

  • How many TCs Executed out of Total so far?
  • How many TCs have passed?
  • How many TCs have failed?
  • How many Defects have been opened?
  • What is the target date to finish testing and re-testing a defect?

Example 2: Logging a Defect and reporting it to the Developer via Email.

The purpose of reporting a Defect to the developer should be letting him know the following additional details (Assuming all the other details such as Priority/Severity are logged in the defect log)

  • What is the defect about?
  • Why is the defect critical?
  • How many Test Scenarios are blocked by the defect?

#2) Know your audience

By knowing your audience you can make the write-up reader friendly and appropriate. The selection of format, style, tone, layout and use of vocabulary largely depends on who the audience is.

You can run through the below checklist to make your write-up appropriate for the audience:

  • Who are my readers?
  • Is it a client or an External team or my internal team this write-up is intended for?
  • What’s the size of the group I am targeting?
  • How my readers are going to use this write-up?
  • What information are my readers looking for through this write-up?
  • Is it appropriate for the intended audience?

Knowing your readers will help you filter out the needed information and avoid unnecessary details.

Example 1: Testing Progress Report

Clearly, in this case, audiences are the Internal Testing team as well as External teams such as Development, Architect team and Client.

Example 2: Logging a Defect and reporting it to the Developer via Email.

In this case, your reader will only be the developer who will fix your defect.

#3) Read Read Read

  • To write well you must learn to read well first.
  • While reading note down good points – prepare notes, observe the formatting / style/ tone.
  • Try to read the type of document / report which you may need to write.
  • Reading helps increase your vocabulary and your choice of phrases

#4) Formatting your work

  • A properly formatted write-up attracts the attention of readers and serves its purpose.
  • Utilise maximum formatting features, wherever needed. For example-
    • Use of Bullet points or numbering to list down options.
    • Using a different color or different font or bold letters to give emphasis on particular sentence or word.
  • Formatting makes the write-up concise and reader-friendly.
  • Although formatting makes write-up clear; all the features like fonts, headings should be consistent throughout, otherwise your write-up may look like an unfinished work.
  • Make use of Graphs and charts whenever necessary.
  • Use of Bold or colored letters should also be limited otherwise it may distract the readers and they may miss the important content.

Example 1: Testing Progress Report

The information can be presented well formatted and easily understood as below:

testing-progress-report

#5) Keep it Simple and easy to understand

  • There is no point in writing a long email if the reader is not able to understand any part of it.
  • Keep it focused and interesting
  • Always try to keep sentences and paragraphs short and clear. Avoid long and complex sentences.
  • Use simple words instead of complex words.
  • Try to avoid repetitions in the write-up.
  • There should be a logical flow in your write- up. Sentences and paragraphs should be connected. The information in your write-up should be necessary and complete to the reader.

Example 2: Logging a Defect and reporting it to the Developer via Email.

In the defect log, we should provide all the necessary details. However, I want to stress the use of simple and easy language. Hence, I will only consider few needed fields.

Defect Log:

Complex and Ambiguous:

Defect Summary: After clicking the logo of the website, Error gets displayed.

Description: The Logo symbol of the website is not working. The error is displayed after clicking the logo making the website crash.

Expected Results:  Website should be working correctly.

Actual Results: Website is not working correctly.

Simple and Clear:

Defect Summary: Application / Website crashes when clicked on Logo.

Description: Whenever the user clicks on Logo – The Application shuts down displaying Error on the page.

Expected Results:  User should be taken to Website Home Page.

Actual Results: Application stops working and Error is displayed.

#6) Active Vs Passive Style

  • Many QA persons believe that using passive voice is more formal and official. It’s a myth.
  • Occasional use of passive voice can be permitted when appropriate. But, overuse of passive voice may ruin the important message that you want to convey.
  • Also, passive voice leads to longer sentences than needed which again may become a cause for more errors in the structure.

Example 2: Logging a Defect and reporting it to the Developer via Email.

Let’s see an example of active / passive voice from our defect log:

  • Passive: Error is displayed when logo is clicked by user
  • Active: When User clicks the logo, error displays.

#7) Make it grammatically correct

  • It is extremely important to follow basic rules of written English. If needed, go back and brush up your knowledge of Basic English grammar. Correct spellings and precise use of grammar and punctuation is a must in your write-up.
  • Avoid use of jargons when writing formal emails. Examples:-
    • Avoid using ‘@’ for about.
    • Always write ‘Test Case’ instead of ‘TC’.
  • Watch the Sentence Structure.
  • Make Paragraphs wherever needed
  • Make correct use of Colons and Semi-Colons, wherever deemed fit

#8) Review and Edit

  • The biggest advantage of written communication is that there is scope for reviewing and editing your work before presenting it to the readers. Always review your work and make sure it’s conveying the same message that you wish to convey.
  • Edit the draft version of your work and make it more readable.
  • Always keep in mind that a neat write-up should be able to run the reader through your thought process clearly.
  • Save templates of your work: It’s a good practice to save templates of your documents which you write regularly. It will save your lot of time in future. Saved templates have defined formats and styles and there is less room for errors. However, while re-using the template, make sure to scan through it thoroughly.

#9) Practice it every day

  • Make it a habit of writing regularly.
  • To start with, write down few sentences every day which can be as minimum as 5. Read through your write-up and then try to replace your selection of words with a more simple word or try to make use of phrase different phrase. Writing daily will increase the quality of your work as well as your writing technique. It will also boost your confidence.

In Summary:

  • Focus on the Purpose and agenda from beginning
  • Keep in mind your readers and make your write-up reader-friendly.
  • Use simple and easy to understand language.
  • Always run through your spellings.
  • Avoid providing ambiguous information.
  • Properly format your work and make sure it is grammatically correct.
  • Make it your Mantra “Write -> Review -> Edit -> Again Write” :)
  • Practice writing everyday.

About the author: This is a guest article by Renuka K. She is having 11+ years of Software testing experience.

Thanks for Reading. Your valuable feedback will be appreciated.

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10 comments ↓

#1 Rajiv kumar

hi
these tips are very useful for QAs

#2 ravi

good article, obviously appreciable

#3 K.Ravindra Reddy

Nice article, if you keep in mind the above points while writing any mail that makes you a good communicator.

#4 Mins

Good article.

#5 Merciyal

Very nice

#6 DEVANG

Nice article, specially the ACTIVE/PASSIVE thing

#7 Shekhar Bhalerao

Helpful

#8 pradeep

hello vijay sir,

i am learning selenium webdriver, i have faced one problem every time.

please tell me, how to select java, selenium jar file , eclipse, firefox browser that are compatible to each other, i am always confusing to this topic please this issue.

#9 Renuka Kant

@all Thanks a lot all for your valuable comments.
Happy Testing!

#10 sevil cankiroglu

Thank you so much very usefull tips for me

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