Who’s to blame for bad business writing?

We came across this interesting article, which suggests that bad business writing is a product of quantity being valued more than quality.

David Silverman suggests that education rewards length over clarity when it comes to writing and, as a consequence, academic writing is plagued with unnecessarily complicated words and phrases that don’t add value to the meaning.

This filters through to the business world, where employees feel that the worth of their written communication is based on word-count, rather than whether it simply does the job.

He ends with a light-hearted example:

“It is the opinion of the group assembled for the purpose of determining a probability of the likelihood of the meteorological-related results and outcome for the period encompassing the next working day that the odds of precipitation in the near-term are positive and reasonably expected.”

Can you reduce the sentence to a few words without losing its meaning?

I agree with David Silverman. I remember being given strict word-counts for essays and papers at university. And these word-counts never reflected the complexity or technicality of the subject being discussed. So of course, your focus shifts from what you’re actually writing, to how many pages you’re filling.

Even in teaching children and young people English, you realise that the first question they ask when given a writing task is, “Miss, how many lines do I need to write?”. They equate the number of lines with the number of marks, not realising that they could be writing pages of total nonsense!

Perhaps a shift away from focus on quantity is needed across the whole education system. But for now, find out how we can help you to improve your business writing here.

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