While most of us are not writers by trade, writing is required in the course of our business lives — whether we are composing email messages, crafting website copy, drafting an article, or creating social media posts.
Lately, I’ve been noticing an increase in the amount of poor writing I’m seeing. Writing coach Josh Bernoff agrees. He says that a major reason for bad business writing is that “people are so busy that they don’t take the time to go back and improve what they’ve written.”
Bernoff surveyed over 500 people who were either consuming or producing business writing. The number one problem was that the length of written communications was too long. “Writers must get to the point quickly,” said Bernoff. “In a world where people are reading everything on a screen, where their attention is easily diverted, you want headlines in the first few sentences to immediately get across what’s important. Another problem is ‘toxic prose’: excessive use of jargon, passive voice, and weasel words like ‘deeply’ and ‘very’ which reduce the amount of meaning.”
Poor writing isn’t something to take lightly. This problem costs businesses billions.
What? Yes! Here are just a few of the ways:
- Businesses spend $3.1 billion annually for remedial writing training for employees. Of this budget, $2.9 billion is spent on current employees.
- A single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half.
- Spelling errors on websites correlate with a lower Google page ranking.
- People view websites with spelling and grammar errors as less credible and trustworthy, which can result in lower sales and negative word-of-mouth.
- Consumers find poor spelling and grammar as the factor most likely to damage their opinion of a brand’s social media account.
- Bad and unreadable writing can cause company inefficiency because people can’t understand what the messenger is trying to say. This is estimated to waste $396 billion.
- 59% of people said they would avoid doing business with a company that’s made obvious errors on its website.
Whether you love it or hate it, writing is a necessary activity in the business world. Take the time to review everything you write, keep your prose as concise as possible, and use the active voice and clear wording. This will help your business avoid losing money as a result of bad writing, and may even help you increase sales by standing out from your competition.