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Poor Writing is Killing Your Business

Matthew MacLachlan

13 Mar 2017

The relatively recent shift in the use of technology has been nothing short of revolutionary. Digital tools such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Snapchat now enable us to do things that previously we could only dream of. We are now connected 24/7 through our devices to incredibly powerful social networks. Of course, this technology revolution is not only a part of our social lives – but it has also revolutionised the way we work and do business. It does, however, come with a health warning for businesses as employees apply the same communication rules as at home – poor writing can kill your business. 

The technology revolution leading to poor writing

Using new technology has accelerated the pace of life and how we communicate with one another. A formally written communication requires time and deep thought. The digital revolution demands instant access, immediate response and quick action. As a result, our communication has become much more informal, allowing us to move onto the next item on our To Do list.

However, the lack of formality often comes at a price. From the use of text speak to emojis, writing skills are declining at a rapid pace. We expect the instant gratification of a like or a share, and it can seem that communication has succumbed to our addiction to disposable products.

Our communication has become much more informal, allowing us to move onto the next item on our To Do list

Business is not immune to these trends. Bad writing – the kind of writing that is excessively informal, vague, or filled with meaningless superlatives has invaded the work force as well.

There is a place for informality and a chat exchange on WhatsApp or Messenger, tools that have made communication more accessible. However, in business contexts, we need to have a firm control of how we express our message.

The cost of poor writing

The Harvard Business Review has published an article that explores the cost of poor writing to organisations. The writers claim that poor writing in the business world costs time and money. Too much writing is disorganised and filled with slang, jargon, or meaningless platitudes.

Rather than speeding up communication, a badly written email, proposal or instruction slows down business processes. The message is lost, and productivity suffers.

There is an additional risk of wasted effort if the written word is misconstrued. For some employees, poorly written instructions can mean a task is undertaken that is not fit for purpose and must be abandoned.

Too much writing is disorganised and filled with slang, jargon, or meaningless platitudes

For others, the time it takes them to work out the true meaning of what has been written means:

  • Additional costs
  • Incomplete work
  • Missed deadlines
  • Other mostly avoidable expenses

Leadership

Good leaders must communicate their messages clearly, minimising room for misunderstandings. Using digital technology tools can make their messages go further, reaching a wider audience more quickly than ever before.

However, the impact of those messages will be lost if the writing is poor and confusing.

Good leaders must communicate their messages clearly, minimising room for misunderstandings

Leaders know that good writing means keeping sentences short. They understand that their audience may be reading in a second or even third language. They choose words that are clear, making their message more precisely defined. They use action words, which reinforce their position of leadership, direction and trustworthiness.

Leaders know that good writing means keeping sentences short

Trust

You have to work hard to gain trust in business. Providing clear information and removing uncertainty, inconsistency, and doubt wherever possible are great ways to earn trust. Messages that are clear build your credibility.

Using the wrong type or words will make readers question the integrity of the message

Very few day-to-day business practices are awesome or incredible. This kind of language is more closely associated with an excitable, emotional teenager than an adult business executive. In most instances, using the wrong type or words will make readers question the integrity of the message.

Well-written messages say what they mean and mean what they say. They don’t simply say how, but also why. They are logical. They persuade, inform or instruct. And the audience can understand the purpose of the message.

Lifeline

Organisations that promote good writing are giving their company a lifeline. In today’s competitive world, it is easy to dismiss an organisation in a second if a reader’s attention is not captured. It is equally easy for that reader to become switched off if their attention is not kept.

Organisations that promote good writing are giving their company a lifeline

Good writing means the writer should be able to compose a message that is attention grabbing, interesting and clear. A well-crafted message will stand out, increase productivity and establish a trustworthy reputation.