Sometimes I feel like a prophet crying in the wilderness, glumly proclaiming, “You need to know how to write well in your job!”
People look at me out of the corners of their eyes and hurry past me, pretending that I’m not there. I assert an uncomfortable truth: poor writing is bad for business.
I’m not the only one out there saying this. There are lots of people more successful than I who are concerned with the lack of adequate writing skills in the workplace.
“What’s the big deal?” you ask.
I can give you four good reasons. It’s a question of an investment in your future.
1) Your writing is a reflection of you and your business.
Especially in an age of pervasive electronic communication, writing is a direct reflection on the writer. Poorly organized content and multiple grammatical errors make the writer (and by association the business the writer is representing) look disorganized and sloppy. For those seeking employment, how well you write can be the difference between getting the job and not getting it.
Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit and founder of Dozuki, writes about his “zero tolerance approach” to grammar errors in “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.” He says, “In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence. And, for better or worse, people judge you if you can’t tell the difference between their, there, and they’re.”
2) Poor writing wastes time and is unproductive.
When someone has to stop and take time to decipher an e-mail, a policy statement, or directions, she is not doing her work. That means lost productivity. Lost time means lost money in the business world.
Rick Suttle, in “Importance of Writing Skills in Business,” emphasizes this: “These written messages must be concise and self-explanatory, so workers can be productive and not waste time asking for further instructions.”
3) Being able to pay attention to details when writing is a skill that can be transferred to other tasks.
I’ve been called a fanatic and nitpicky when it comes to grammar. However, the ability to track and correct all the little things during writing and revision is a skill that can be used in other tasks.
Mr. Wiens explains that “programmers who pay attention to how they construct written language also tend to pay a lot more attention to how they code.” Good writers tend to make fewer mistakes when they are doing other things.
4) Companies are putting more stress on writing skills when hiring.
Businesses realize that poor writing skills can cost them money but are faced with job candidates who can’t write clearly or understandably. “As a result, jobs are going unfilled and companies are spending as much as $3 billion per year to bring employees’ writing to an acceptable level,” writes Mark James Miller in “Shortage of Writing Skills in the Workplace.”
If companies are willing to spend $3 billion a year to improve writing skills, how much money would they potentially lose if they didn’t? It’s mind boggling!
The good news is that anyone can improve her writing – with hard work and practice. In the long run, it will be time well spent if it gets you that job or that promotion.