I will pass on a great programmer with bad writing skills

Why good business writing skills are essential

Most professional writers have their pet peeves when it comes to writing, and we generally regard them as perhaps a little eccentric, or, in their worse forms, ‘grammar Nazis’. When business owners voice a strong requirement for good writing, however, it might be that those writers have had a point all along, and it’s now time to listen up. Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit and founder of Dozuki explained in a post [L1] on Harvard Business Review’s blog why he’ll happily pass up otherwise brilliant candidates who don’t know their tos from their toos.

It’s not about grammar, but credibility

“Some might call my approach to grammar extreme, but I prefer Lynne Truss’s more cuddly phraseology: I am a grammar “stickler.” And, like Truss — author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves — I have a “zero tolerance approach” to grammar mistakes that make people look stupid” wrote Wiens.

The focus is on credibility, and how it affects the perception of the reader; getting the basics – like their, there, and they’re, as well as too and to – wrong, indicates poor language skills. More importantly, it conveys the impression that the writer, or the company for that matter, couldn’t care less. Any credibility in the company or person will soon disappear.

“On the face of it,” Wiens continues, “my zero tolerance approach to grammar errors might seem a little unfair. After all, grammar has nothing to do with job performance, or creativity, or intelligence, right?

“Wrong. If it takes someone more than 20 years to notice how to properly use “it’s,” then that’s not a learning curve I’m comfortable with. So, even in this hyper-competitive market, I will pass on a great programmer who cannot write.”

Good writing considers more than grammar

However satisfactory grammar or spelling alone is not an indication of good business writing. In his introduction for the 1979 edition of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, E.B. White wrote about the book that it was “a case for cleanliness, accuracy, and brevity in the use of English.” Good business writing considers language usage, composition, and form to achieve “cleanliness, accuracy, and brevity” – the qualities every reader expects from the material he or she is about to read. Good writing is effective writing.

So, how do you go from writing zero to hero – quickly enough to save or improve your business relationships?

Improving your business writing

Author Stephen King said “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Reading business documents considered to be ‘good’ acts like a beacon for the brain; it allows you to compare what you’ve written with what you’ve read. Discrepancies can then be fixed to produce a well-written document, one that’s generally more effective. It may take a bit of time and effort to arrive at a version perfectly suited to its purpose, but what you’ve learnt remains, and makes composition of future documents easier, and faster, without sacrificing quality.

Business, however, is impatient. Writing courses focused on business have managed to condense all relevant requirements for ‘acceptable writing’ into a formulaic  whole which can be learnt, and applied without too much difficulty. When you combine what you’ve learnt with a good reference such as The Elements of Style, any individual can turn flawed writing into business copy that does the job it’s supposed to do.

Need to improve your business writing skills fast?. Bangula Language Centre offers training to individuals, teams and entire departments. Learn more about our business writing courses 


 

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