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Bad Writing Is Destroying Your Company’s Productivity

Consider how much of your workweek is just spent reading, especially reading email. Is all of it well-constructed and intuitive writing? In an article for Harvard Business Review, Josh Bernoff wages that is not the case. He believes vague writing could be crippling an organization’s potential productivity.

Legibility Wanted

Most employees never get instruction on the right way to compose emails or any other form of communication. They just get thrown into the mix, and if their managers write scribbled messes, employees might start to think scribbled messes are the norm. This might even be true, but that does not make it right or useful. Poor writing can sabotage business in a few ways.

First of which is that vague writing can undermine good leadership. Bernoff provides an example from an email Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer sent to staff after the company sold to Verizon. In it, she uses “incredible” and “incredibly” about Yahoo four times over the course of one paragraph, which sounds hollow and meaningless. It comes across as fake enthusiasm at worst. Leaders need to cut down on hollow phrases that get away from the heart of the real message, in addition to keeping away from jargon that could confuse an audience’s ability to absorb information.

When people write with clarity, it becomes easier for other people to trust them. Their positions and expectations are crystal clear, leaving less room for doubts. When fuzzy writing is allowed to occur, fuzzy thinking happens:

A great example is the report that the UMass Donahue Institute published about the economics of hosting the 2024 Olympics in Boston. Its passive-voice analysis hid who was responsible for important parts of the bid… Questions like who would monitor expenses and who would secure hypothetical insurance loomed over the bid. In the end, these uncertainties caused the citizens and political leaders of Boston to reject an Olympic bid.

It is a self-fulfilling prophecy of indifference in that case, it would seem. Do not allow indifference to seep into your writing, and encourage others to foster the same attitudes. Well-written emails and documentation save precious time for the readers who have to comprehend them, making life better for everyone.

You can view the original article here: https://hbr.org/2016/09/bad-writing-is-destroying-your-companys-productivity

About John Friscia

John Friscia is the Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and continues to provide graphic design support for AITS. He graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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