When we think of essential business skills, delegation, time management, and networking are probably at the top of everyone's list. However, a recent survey conducted by Harvard Business Review reveals that good writing is actually one of the most important, yet most overlooked, skills in the game, and not for the reasons you'd expect.
We often don't screen for bad writing in the job process, because we assume almost everyone can construct basic sentences. But clunky, imprecise writing isn't just a communication blunder -- it can severely impact your team's productivity at work.
Here's what the research found about how bad writing can insidiously drag your company down, and how you can nip those issues in the bud:
Bad writing wastes time
We've all seen those emails -- the ones that go on forever and leave you wondering, when is this person going to get to the point? Have you ever thought about how those seconds to minutes of wasted reading time stack up over the course of the work week? It's a lot.
According to Harvard's research, on average, most people spend 25.5 hours per week reading for work, including email. And their survey found that "81% of [the subjects] agree that poorly written material wastes a lot of their time." Imagine how much more efficient and productive you and your staff will be, if an emphasis is placed on streamlined writing.
The Fix: Write clearly and succinctly, and train your staff and new hires
Before composing an email or a press release, take a moment to think about the main points you want to address, so when you go to write, you get straight to the point. Most people skip over flowery intros, so you should too. Instead, focus on keeping your ideas and your sentences brief and well-organized. If you see yourself using a ton of commas or writing one long, giant paragraph, try to break those ideas up into more digestible portions.
Taking a little extra time to train your staff on proper writing techniques is another excellent way to get your whole team on the same page and start boosting your company's productivity. Provide them with concrete examples of good and bad emails, proposals, ect. This will visually reinforce good writing habits.
Bad writing weakens leadership
Strong leadership shows in writing as much as it does in person. If your writing is plagued with indecisive, vague, or passive speech, chances are you're coming across as someone who doesn't believe in their ideas or someone who isn't quite sure of what they're doing. This leads to miscommunication and a breakdown of productivity and confidence in the office.
The Fix: Use active language
Harvard's research found that "Fuzzy writing allows fuzzy thinking. Clear writing uses well-organized, active-voice sentences to explain what is happening, what ought to happen, and what people need to do. Conversely, inexact and passive language reflects gaps in thinking."
Passive speech comes across as watery and unsure of itself. Active voice communicates decisive leadership and clear instruction and direction. It's a style of writing that people want to follow.
Bad writing hurts your chances of promotion
In a survey conducted by Grammarly, a study of 100 LinkedIn profiles revealed that "Professionals with fewer grammar errors in their profiles achieved higher positions.Those who failed to progress to a director-level position within the first 10 years of their careers made 2.5 times as many grammar mistakes as their director-level colleagues."
The Fix: Double Check and Revise
As easy as it sounds, so many people forget to follow this step. Maybe you're trying to get through your emails in a hurry or be the first one to send your cover letter out to a new job opportunity, but you'll be more successful in all you do, if you take a moment to proof your work. Don't let a misspelled word or poorly place commas keep you from advancing in your career.
Whether you want to boost your business's productivity, strengthen your leadership skills, or secure a promotion, that all starts with good writing. By utilizing these few simple writing tricks, you and your team will save time and focus on what really matters.
Do you have any writing tips, or ideas on how to make employees better writers? I want to hear from you - give me a shout-out on Twitter!