Hard proof that better writing makes a better business

A collection of facts and statistics on the benefits of good business writing and the cost of bad.

Good writing doesn’t just have implications for your marketing team, it has a powerful effect on your bottom line too.

In fact, it could cost you $75m.

And we can prove it.

The truth is, we all work closely with language. In every presentation, memo, tweet, report and email, there it is.

Clear, persuasive writing touches and benefits every department in an organization. It is for your colleagues, not only your customers.

Here we have collected some of the most robust and convincing statistics on language. It proves what many of us can often put into words but not numbers – writer training is valuable.

All of us are writers

This report from the National Commission on Writing surveyed 120 major American corporations found that:

  • Two-thirds of employees working in large companies write as part of their job. For service companies that goes up to 80%.
  • Yet almost a third of the companies in the report said that 33% of their employees’ writing skills weren’t up to scratch.

What does it mean?
For teams to excel, their writing needs to excel too- yet this is clearly a hugely under-resourced area for many companies.

The productivity killer

Josh Bernoff is a long-time campaigner for the benefits of good business writing. In 2016 he surveyed 547 busines speople, finding that:

  • They spent an average of 25.5 hours a week reading for work.
  • 81% of them agreed that poorly written material wastes a lot of their time.

What does it mean?
Bad writing is eating into hours and hours of our working day. Improving the clarity of our language has the potential to markedly improve a company’s efficiency.

In fact, he estimates that this inefficiency costs American businesses alone nearly $400 billion a year.

Bad writing costs businesses $400 billion a year

JOSH BERNOFF, Author and ex- Forrester Analyst

 

People are lost about how to improve

This infographic puts the statistics above (and some others) into stark relief.

But one of the most striking things pulled out here is that only 37% of people think that their company’s process for collecting and combining feedback works well.

What does it mean?
Writers (and non-writers) are constantly playing games of ‘copy tennis’. People are passing documents back and forth because they can’t articulate what right looks like.

This is why we always recommend a look at process when you embark on any writer training or verbal guideline refresh.

Clear writing, clear ROI

Written by the celebrated law professor, Joseph Kimble, ‘Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please: The Case for Plain Language in Business, Government and Law’ is an incredibly useful resource for those wanting to prove the benefits of writing training.

For speed, here are some of the more compelling case studies are:

General Electric
The company rewrote one of their software manuals. As a result, calls and letters to their customer care team dropped by 125 calls a month. This translated to a saving of $375,000 per year for every single customer. Good writing saves hundreds of hours for customer service reps.

By rewriting memos to officers, the US Navy determined they would save $25-37 million each year since officers took 17-23% less time reading.

JOSEPH KIMBLE, Professor of Law

 

The US Army
The Army tested two versions of a business letter asking someone to perform a specific task. The people who received the second, well-written letter were twice as Iikely to perform the task compared to those who received the first letter. Good writing is persuasive.

FedEx
Another manual, but this time for employees. After rewriting their ground operations manual, employees found the correct answer 80% of the time, up from only 53% previously. FedEx estimated they saved $400,000 per year, just in the time employees spent looking for information. Good writing saves companies millions.

You can’t be an effective organization without effective communication

The Project Management Institute found that high-performing organizations (and the people in them) were over five times more likely to be effective communicators.

And, on the flipside, ineffective communications cost American businesses $75miIIion for every $1billion spent on a project.

What does it mean? If you want to stay ahead of your competitors, you must encourage effective communication amongst the teams you manage.

Speak to us about writer training

We work with national and global brands, helping them connect with their customers and colleagues using a differentiating, consistent and engaging voice.

Through our work we’ve seen:

  • Version 2, not 20: Dysfunctional client-agency relationships be turned around and their work regularly approved first time.
  • 10x more efficient writing teams: Increasing writing loads handled by an unchanged level of writers.
  • Connecting Voice to Vision: Clear brand guidelines and training inspire people inside and outside the brand to form a new, long-lasting understanding of ‘who we are’ and ‘what we stand for’.

Some of our Clients

About Verbal Identity

We are writers, strategists and linguistics experts: super-specialists in the magic and mechanics of language. We know how language creates thinking. And how – if you shape the language of your company, your comms and your customers – you shape what people think and do, read more…

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