Small Businesses Should KISS Poor Writers Goodbye

Let’s face it: when it comes to business, you want people to stick to the point – hence the term “getting down to business.” In this fast-moving, dynamic economy, no one has the time or the money to deal with those who beat around the bush. Time is money, after all, and the economic downturn has made it all the more critical to maximize the efficiency of what is the most precious commodity, time.

How does unsatisfactory or poor writing factor into loss of money in a small business setting? Well, let’s break it down into a scenario with which you can relate. Say you own, or are a part of a business, that works on group-based projects. A new employee is hired. Although quite a personable fellow, he his written communication is filled with abbreviations and doesn’t make good use of punctuation – and you are often left wondering what he meant to say after receiving an email from him.

An important project you’ve been waiting for finally comes along, and your new co-worker sends you an email providing next steps. It makes no sense. You email him back asking for clarification. He responds in his usual manner, and this continues. That’s the bad news. The good news is that every response helps you put the puzzle together a little bit more. The message is finally clear. This whole process took most of the day, and you got very little of your normal work accomplished. The project is now a day late, and your boss is thinking that cutting the project’s budget would serve as decent “reminder” for the lost time – all because of poor writing skills.

The same applies to those who overdo it. Take that same scenario in the above example, and switch out the shorthand-lover for a different model. Let’s say this one types more than 100 words-per-minute, and she’s very punctual with replies. However, she has a bombastic, verbose way of writing that is littered with multi-syllabic words that are frequently inappropriate for the context. The same process occurs with the back-and-forth puzzle-building.

Same result: lost time and money.

Efficient writing plays a significant role in conducting efficient business. According to a study conducted by the National Commission on Writing, as many as one third of U.S. workers do not meet the writing requirements of their position. While 71 percent of interviewed executives agree that good writing is critical to business success, we still have 64 of the largest U.S. corporations, employing near eight million people, expending $3.1 billion a year to provide remediation for employees’ poor writing skills. This is only a small part of the problem, since many employers give up and deal with the problem without really dealing with it, i.e., by not holding employees who produce sub-standard writing accountable. The costs in lost time, lost jobs, and confusion are inestimable.

The most sought-after skills in the workforce are accuracy, clarity, punctuation, spelling, grammar, and conciseness. But with some foresight, small businesses can KISS poor writing goodbye, once and for all.

Keep It Simple, Stupid – KISS.

The ability to write accurately is a predictor of an employee’s career success. Small businesses looking to bring on a new employee must look for a few key indicators to ensure that a new hire has the necessary skill set.

KEEP: Good writers know what to keep, and what to leave out of their writing. When reviewing cover letters and resumes, watch out for rambling repetition, indirectness, inaccuracies, poor grammar, and sentences that detract from clarity.

IT: You’ll know that a potential employee is a great writer if their samples remain within context. The best writers choose a main idea and don’t digress – they stick to “it.”

SIMPLE: Good writers lay out their ideas in understandable, simple points. They make it easy to understand the main idea through both their sentence structure and their formatting.

STUPID:  Finally, potential employees should keep their application materials at a high level. They should not try to “fluff it up” with unexplained technical terms, advanced concepts, or “in-crowd vocabulary.”

In conclusion, don’t waste resources on someone who can’t efficiently use language. It will cost you time and money. Small businesses, especially, must focus on hiring people who care about clearly sending a message so that others can understand it.

Hire someone who knows how to write, if you can find one.

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