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Inconvenient Truths (Linguistic Statistics)

Invisalign ad fail - bad writing isn't always about the writing

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.

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!

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