The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
– George Bernard Shaw
Are you kidding yourself?
Absolutely. We all are. It seems Excessive Self-Regard Tendency is a feature of humanity: The less we know about something, the less we realise we know.
So when it comes to bad writing, here are a few home truths we all need to stare down:
1. Communication skills are rare, but critical to your success.
- The Bloomberg Job Skills Report (2016) found communication skills are among what recruiters want most, but are hardest to find.
- The Project Management Institute found that high-performing organisations (and by correlation, the people in them) were more than five times more likely to be effective communicators.
2. Bad writing is killing your productivity.
- Josh Bernoff, an ex-Forrester researcher, revealed in his State of Business Writing – 2016 that 84% of business-writing managers, directors and supervisors say poor writing wastes a lot of their time.
- He also found that business writers average 20.4 hours, or 51% of their week, writing.
- And they’re deluded, rating others’ writing as 5.4/10 for effectiveness, but their own at 6.9/10.
3. Bad writing is strangling your company.
- William H DuBay in Working with Plain Language (2008) found 40% of the cost of managing business transactions is caused by poor communication.
- And in Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please (1997), Joseph Kimble outlines 25 studies proving clear communication saves companies millions of dollars and countless hours. One example is FedEx’s operations-manual rewrite, which saved $400,000 in the first year alone.
So next time a badly written email, report or memo gets your back up, take a deep breath. The writer was clueless; they didn’t mean to disrespect you or your time. They (sadly) thought they did a great job. (Remember Excessive Self-Regard Tendency?)
But do them a favour and share this post with them.
Then get them onto Credosity. It’s a great blind-spot finder!