Poor writing is an obstacle to productivity, a hindrance to customer and client relations, and an impediment to effective management. Good writing is an opportunity to be creative and crystallize thinking while portraying a consistently professional image.
Why should a well-run organization care about writing training? Because meaningful communication — whether in reports, memos or the ubiquitous emails that make writers out of all of us — is the key to good management. To get the message across internally, it must be concise, unambiguous and logically structured. Overly long, badly organized writing can create confusion.
And without clear management expectations of what constitutes effective writing, you leave yourself vulnerable to erosions in productivity and morale. Nothing can slow the pace of decision making like the seemingly endless “rewrite cycle,” as one management layer above another finds fault with a document that would have been clearly written in the first place had there been writing guidelines, with leadership insistence on a concise message.
The penalties for inattention to the quality of writing can be just as severe when it comes to external communications with clients, customers and other constituents. Letters or emails that look rushed and shows signs of shoddy — or nonexistent — editing can leave a harmful impression of the writer, his or her superiors and even the whole organization. In fact, errors — grammatical and spelling blunders, run-on and fragmented sentences, misleading punctuation, redundant content, passive verbs, sloppy organization — can all lead the reader to ask: What else is wrong with this? Can I trust what the writer is trying to tell me?
So what constitutes Writing That Works?
- Usa a writing process that starts with a free-wheeling exploratory phase and ends with a concise product that demonstrates a disciplined approach to business and/or government communications.
- Knowing your audience is an absolute necessity. Writing that looks and sounds professional must edify with straightforward English, not try to impress with “insidey” and often (albeit unintentional) pompous language. Respect the reader.
- Writing is thinking. The writing process forces you to analyze and be creative, and maybe even surprise yourself at how much you know. Good writers exercise their minds.
- Revise and edit. No matter how well crafted, your message can be garbled and you can project a negative image of you and your organization if you don’t cast a critical eye on your own work. Effective writers must learn how to edit and revise. It’s all about “quality control.”
A recent Business Week magazine poll showed that 41 percent of employees who are dissatisfied with training efforts offered by their employer plan to leave the company within 12 months, compared to 12 percent who are satisfied with the training.
It’s not too late. Effective business writing can give employees a greater sense of cohesion. What business couldn’t benefit from more confident communicators who shun jargon and bureaucratic padding.
David Griffiths with the Pincus Group is a professional with over 30 years of experience in writing, editing and communications coaching. He can be reached at info@thepincusgroup.