Josh Bernoff would say “Bad writing costs money” is an understatement. In his view, “bad writing is destroying your company’s productivity.”
What’s the basis for this claim? Bernoff surveyed 547 people who write at least two hours a week (in addition to email) on the job. On the average, they reported reading job-related materials 25.5 hours a week (including emails).
“A majority say that what they read is frequently ineffective because it’s too long, poorly organized, unclear, filled with jargon, and imprecise.”
Eighty-one percent of those surveyed identified bad writing as a significant waste of their time.
However, Bernoff also found that bad writers can improve with targeted feedback.
The Federal Bank of Philadelphia offered bank examiners a chance to participate in a voluntary writing program. After receiving detailed feedback on one or two pieces of writing, participants’ revisions showed a
- 56% improvement in organization
- 48% improvement in clarity
The bank didn’t quantify how much time and effort these improvements would save readers. But one or two half-hour sessions of feedback improved writing quality in two areas that reduced the amount of time readers needed to spend rereading or following up with queries.
How much time could cutting down on rereading or follow-up queries save you?
(For more ideas on providing feedback to business writers, see this free 21-page whitepaper, available at https://writebetteratwork.com/free-guide-whitepaper/)
Sources: Bernoff, Josh. (2016, September 6). Bad writing is destroying your company’s productivity. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/09/bad-writing-is-destroying-your-companys-productivity
Bernoff, Josh. (2017, February 21). Why your organization needs a writing center. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/02/why-your-organization-needs-a-writing-center