People in business are frequently encouraged to write well. It’s less often made clear, though, that good writing has an explicit relationship with business goals such as productivity and alignment. That means that it is integral to business leadership.
Good Writing = Maximized Efficiency
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review notes two interrelated factors related to how important clear writing is.
First, the rise of e-mail as a dominant communication medium has meant that writing has become increasingly important. The piece was based on a survey indicating that people spend at least two hours per week writing, excluding writing e-mails.
Even more surprisingly, they spend more than 25 hours a week reading for business. That’s more than 62% of a 40-hour week. Even if a workweek stretches out to 60 hours, that’s still more than 40% of it spent reading.
Second, a whopping 81% of these people cited poorly written material as a major impediment to productivity. Poor writing? We’re talking about material that is disorganized, unclear, jargon-ridden, not precise, or much longer than it needs to be.
Some statistics also point to other aspects of good writing as important to business success. A recent study, for example, noted that grammatical accuracy improved success on the job, at least as measured by promotions. Over the course of a decade, one group received six to nine promotions. Another group, which made 45% more grammatical errors that the first, received only one to four promotions.
Fostering Alignment and Clarity
While productivity and promotions are important factors in success, so are two other elements good writing can enhance: alignment and clarity.
Alignment between goals and specific plans, actions, and measures needs good writing to happen. If goals and the specifics to operationalize them are not understood, they won’t happen on the ground.
Good writing is good thinking is a venerable adage of the writing trade. So is it’s corollary, bad writing is bad thinking? Writing that is too fuzzy or too imprecise to be understood – or relies on too much translation and too many assumptions for interpretation of the message – can’t articulate goals or the measures needed to reach them.
Clarity of language also builds trust, both among employees and among customers. A clear message, clearly stated, seems like an honest person is talking. If it’s clear enough, it can be understood by employees and clients alike.
Take this example. “Our second quarter earnings took a hit from the rise in interest rates. We earned $2.02 versus the $2.62 expected before it became clear that rates would rise,” is a clear statement. It details the specific event and gives a concise cause and effect.
Compare it with “second quarter earnings were impacted by market moves triggered by the U.S. Federal Reserve.” That’s far less clear. It leaves a lot of room for doubt about exactly what occurred What exactly happened, both to earnings and to the market? What did the U.S. Federal Reserve do?
Ultimately, the benefits of good writing spread through an organization. Good reading – which will happen if writing is clear and concise – will foster yet more good writing. The synergy between good writing and easy reading will benefit any corporation.