Updated: Feb 26
Poor communication skills often leave bad impressions of you and your organization. One brochure with one little typo printed 5,000 times and widely distributed to various channels can cost money and clients.
Consider this example from an inspirational life coach’s email blast: “Witness our coaches giving her some of their best backstage advice, all about taking her biz to front & center of the global stage.” Huhmmm…what?
Is the meaning of this sentence absolutely clear and unambiguous to you? Should a business solicitation letter EVER include colloquial text abbreviations like biz? Would you question the coach’s services based on this letter or would you excuse away the faulty writing with any number of justifications, such as, ‘Perhaps someone else wrote this message on the coach’s behalf. Not everybody is a good writer, but they’re still good at what they do. Well, the rest of the letter wasn’t that bad.’
As a result of these kinds of arguments, many professions receive passes on bad writing, spelling and grammar, especially STEM related professions like medicine and engineering…you know…the really smart people with no time for inconsequential matters like concise, readable writing. Who cares if they can write as long as the surgery is successful or the network operates efficiently?
Despite these predominant attitudes, good writing still matters in most professional settings. Current technologies used in business communication demand that everyone— from janitors and administrative assistants to managers and CEOs—everybody must write something during each work day. A note on the bathroom stall, a memo, an email, an annual report.
No one in today’s workplace can escape the task of writing, and hiding behind the resident writing expert in your department is nearly impossible. Sooner or later, you must display your writing abilities. Once you submit your written work, what will others think of you?
The Importance of Professional Writing Skills
1. Writing errors breed distrust.
According to the article “Bad Grammar is Bad for Business,” 59% of 1,029 people polled by Global Lingo, said that bad grammar and obvious spelling errors would make them reconsider patronizing a website. Here is the prevailing thought: If you are sloppy in smaller tasks such as editing your advertisement, website or calling card, then how can your products and services be trusted?
2. Writing errors suggest inattention to detail.
As a seasoned professional or budding entrepreneur, you will be judged on the quality of your writing in the business sector. This is especially true for jobseekers. Many hiring managers toss resumés with even the slightest misstep in punctuation. Spelling or typographic errors are definite deal breakers for a lot of employers.
According to The Importance of Correct Spelling and Grammar on CVs, 72.2 % of surveyed recruiters admitted to trashing resumés with one or more spelling errors; 71.3 % reconsidered hiring a candidate with errors in their resumés and 57.9% viewed spelling proficiency as vitally important to job success. Have you been guilty of this behavior? Why would you judge a potential employee’s success at your company based on one little proofreading error?
3. Writing errors suggest lower intelligence.
How well educated is a public school teacher who confuses the preposition, adverb and numeral to, too and two? Misspellings are one thing, but errors caused by misuse of words indicate a fundamental inability to use the English language correctly.
Essentially, you should have been taught basic grammar in school. As a professional adult, how could these simple rules have eluded you? Like it or not, written communication intimates your level of intelligence and thoughtfulness.
For example, various online media outlets circulated a letter supposedly written by James Dimon the CEO of J.P. Morgan to a female gold-digger petitioning for a rich husband in her dating profile. Instead of focusing on the content of the letter, many readers commented on all the writing errors.
Many deemed the letter a hoax (per snopes.com), because surely, such an important man with such a prestigious title must possess better writing skills than the letter indicated. As in this example, deficient writers are perceived as less than smart, whether or not this characterization is true or fair.
The Writing Redux
After diminishing the importance of good writing skills to academic and professional advancement, many colleges and universities are scrambling to create effective writing centers and resources for impending graduates. What prompted this renewed emphasis on the written word?
Employers have discovered that many qualified workers are incompetent writers, especially new graduates. Axiomatically speaking, money talks. Where did these employees attend college? Who confirmed their degrees despite their poor written communication skills?
On the other hand graduate school faculty and officials are recoiling at the poor quality of student compositions at this higher level of education. Why didn’t they learn to write advanced academic prose as undergraduates?
Now that the finger pointing has subsided, businesses and academic institutions are confronting the grave consequences of depreciating the role of the writing instructor. Good news indeed for the struggling English majors, business and technical writing gurus! Suit up ladies and gentlemen. Your time has come, once again!
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Ashan R. Hampton is a long-time English instructor turned entrepreneur. She is also a proud graduate of the Donaghey Scholars Program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock under the direction of Dr. C. Earl Ramsey, Emeritus. Through her company, Onyx Online Education & Training, she offers online writing courses and print books for academic and professional development to individuals and corporations. She is also a prolific published author of several books on a variety of topics. To find out more about Ashan's work, visit www.arhampton.com.
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