Professional business writers are a corporate phenomenon that have been ignored long enough. It’s time to shed light on their challenges and trials as working professionals and individuals. It’s time for the phenomenal business writer to come out of the shadows.
Not enough attention has been paid to Business Writers as a corporate phenomenon. Copywriters are considered the rockstars of business writing, but it is the writer-generalist who really butters corporate’s bread.
These are the people charged with communicating via multiple written-word channels every day. To primarily, let’s face it, skeptical, doubting business audiences ranging from the mildly skeptical email message to the outright hostile increase spending recommendation. There’s a lot riding on the written word for professional Business Writers – money, respect, ego. It’s important to know how to write well.
A Hard Place Writer
So the Business Writer finds himself at the juxtaposition of great opportunity and great personal angst. Aware or much more likely unaware, that earning power, upward mobility, and perhaps worst of all, ego hangs in the balance.
Better business writers make more money, get more promotions, plum assignments, and are generally happier on the job and off. Like the opposite side of the same coin, poor writers miss out on those benefits. They also struggle with ego issues and the judgment of colleagues. Weak writers could keep many a therapist’s couch warm.
Johnny Couldn’t and Still Can’t
Newsweek magazine’s cover story on December 8, 1975 was entitled “Why Johnny Can’t Write.” It opened with an ominous warning:
“If your children are attending college, the chances are that when they graduate, they will be unable to write ordinary, expository English with any real degree of structure and lucidity”.
Pretty accurate prediction. Certainly, America’s 70 years of documented inferior public school education contributes to significant numbers of people who struggle to write well. Poor writing follows the student on through college and into America’s workforce.
According to an INC magazine article, Corporate America spends over $3 Billion annually on remedial programs for current employees. 97% spent on remedial reading and writing. American businesses lose over $400 Billion due to poor writing from lost revenues, clients, and lawsuits.
Costly mistakes that result in job-ending miscommunication at one end to court battles at the other. Corporations and governments realize the benefit of better writing. Their system improvement initiatives have produced significant savings.
Better Writing Works Big Time
GE rewrote its software manuals and saved $375k annually on customer service calls. The US Navy rewrote the format for business memos and saved an estimated $37 million from reading time savings. FEDEX saved $400k when it rewrote its operations manual.
The question becomes then, are these institutional improvements benefiting the skill-deficient employee? Or, are remedial classes merely a checkbox for HR that says “Hey, we tried”?
Even as we rightfully laud students and practitioners of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), technology has made the need to write well even more important.
Writing well is an asset that serves the business professional well throughout their career and life. Broadening awareness of the personal and professional pitfalls of poor business writing skills is therefore important.
More light is needed to spotlight a fascinating phenomenon of corporate America, the phenomenal Business Writer.