Career boost: Four ways to improve your employees’ business writing skills
Could poor business writing be hampering your business? Here are four ways you can improve your employees’ writing skills.
The question has probably never crossed your mind before, but how well can your employees write?
We’re not talking about staff members whose job it is to write, but the rest of your team. Your HR manager, account directors, secretaries, the people who write warehouse dockets…
People who won’t have been hired for their writing skills and probably have never thought about how they wrote, but all of whom physically write words on behalf of your business.
Find out why their ability to write matters more than you think, and how to help them improve it.
Why you should try to improve bad business writing
It’s easy to think it doesn’t matter too much, but poor business writing is damaging for your business.
Just think of all the occasions your employees will write something the outside world will see – emails, newsletters, social media posts, tenders, quotes, job adverts… the list is endless.
And if they can’t write well, then it’s not them that people will judge – it’s your business. If your logo is on a communication, then it is the voice of your business. And even if a recipient knows that poor writing or an error was made by an individual, they’re still your member of staff.
You hired them. You may have trained them. You’ve seen their work and are happy for them to be writing. So the poor writing of an employee ultimately reflects badly on you.
It’s also expensive to have poor writers at large in your company. Josh Bernoff’s extensive analysis of the subject found that out of 547 business writers, 81% of respondents agreed that “poorly written material wastes my time”.
This has a significant impact on productivity and suggests that time (and therefore, money) is being needlessly wasted on unnecessarily bad writing. In other words, billions of dollars in collective annual wages are being spent on poor writing.
Experts in writing research papers know the importance of honing writing skills and having a simple process for writing that ensures best practice is adhered to.
And if your employees need any extra incentive to work on their writing skills, remind them that these will help them in their career too. Becoming a better writer can only be as positive. And if they’ve ever dreamed of ways to make money by writing a book, then learning to write well is a good start.
Four ways to improve business writing skills
So, now you’re convinced that it’s important to ensure your employees can write well, lets look at some simple advice to help them do just that.
Here is a four-step process to writing they can follow. With practice and perseverance they’ll find writing easier, and even more enjoyable perhaps.
1) Understand your goal
Before you place a finger on your keyboard ready to type, you need to know exactly what your objective is.
What is it that you’re trying to convey? Who is it you’re writing for? How best can you deliver this message to them in a concise manner? You must have an answer to these questions before you begin.
Without a clear goal (and reader) in mind, you risk your writing wandering aimlessly without point or purpose. And it will take you much longer not only to start writing, but to complete the job.
And when you have finished, how can you tell if your writing is fit for the job? How can you (or anyone else) review it and feel confident it’s ready to meet its reader.
2) Develop a process that works for you
Think of writing as something akin to building: you need your materials, you need to plan a course of action, and you need to begin to piece it all together.
By “materials” we don’t just mean your laptop, or whatever you are physically writing on. One of the most vital materials at your disposal is subject matter -what are you writing about, what information are you presenting, etc.
Your course of action will generally consist of writing some notes, structuring, drafting, and editing.
Every writer will have their own process.. But whatever order you complete each part of it in, you need to find something that works for you and allows you to comfortably prepare and write.
3) Don’t be afraid
This one is pivotal. Fear only serves to hold you back when writing, much like it does many other aspects of life.
When it comes to writing, you shouldn’t be afraid to try. And you should definitely not be afraid to try to improve your skills.
But more importantly, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s as simple as asking someone when to use a semicolon or if they would mind proofreading your work, it’s always important that you rely on the strengths of others when you need it.
And don’t be afraid of criticism either. It’s one of the many necessary steps toward bolstering your skills as a writer.
So if you find yourself starting at a blank screen or piece of paper, don’t pressure yourself to start with something brilliant. Just get anything down. Accept that your first draft may be absolutely rubbish, but it is only by working through that rubbish that you’ll get to the good stuff.
And the great news is that no one needs to see that awful first attempt. You can just delete it or bin it. You only need to show someone else when you are happy with your writing.
4) Proof read
This may sound obvious but it is probably THE most important tip. However accurate you think your typing is, it’s almost guaranteed you’ve made a mistake somewhere.
And just the tiniest typo or spelling mistake can ruin an otherwise perfect document. It can make your writing look sloppy or poorly constructed, and damage your credibility in making your point.
It’s even more important to check for and eliminate any mistakes when you’re writing for a business, under their name and logo.
So once you have finished writing any piece of copy, proof it. If you can, either ask someone else to proof it for you, or go and do another task for an hour or two and come back to it.
The reason for this is that you are always too close to your writing when it’s fresh in your mind. This means that you are less likely to see typos and spelling errors. Your brain knows what you wanted to write, and that is what it will see. So you will pretty much be blind to your mistakes.
But a colleague will be able to spot them. As will you if you take a break from your copy and come back cold. Your brain will have forgotten what you have written and read it afresh. And you’ll be able to perfect your writing before it’s unleashed into the world.
Practice makes perfect
Of course, doing something as complex as improving business writing skills won’t just happen overnight. It takes time and practice to grasp the fundamentals of writing well.
But with time and practice, it is inevitable that they will get better and more confident. And this will benefit both their career progression and your business. So it’s a win-win for everyone.