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Careless Company Writing = Failure

Denise wrote to ask for help in her company:

I work for a small company whose president and others on the administrative side don’t seem at all interested in correct, effective writing. We’re growing rapidly and will soon have a gorgeous new web site, which I imagine will be filled with errors. For example, many people use capitalization for emphasis rather than for proper nouns. It drives me crazy.

Could you please write about how to get others to see the importance of better writing? I’ve offered to proofread anything that goes out to the public, but no one is jumping to take me up on it.

Denise, you did not identify the company, but here is my advice: Quit while you can. The company will go nowhere without a respect for correct, complete, concise business writing. Polish your resume and your cover letter. You will need them any day.

graphic explaining how careless company writing can result in company failure

Here is what will happen if the company maintains its careless attitude toward writing:

  1. When bad writing reaches customers and clients, they will lose confidence in your ability and take their money elsewhere.
  2. When proposals or sales pieces do not meet expectations, potential customers will say, “If they can’t meet our needs in the proposal or sales letter, there’s no way they can deliver as a business partner.” They will seek out your competitors.
  3. When readers (both inside and outside the company) cannot understand your email and other messages, they will respond with repeated questions. You will all waste time and effort answering questions that should not have been necessary. Because of that waste, you will miss your performance targets and financial goals.
  4. When your company communications contain errors, you will spend time and money rectifying mistakes and misunderstandings. Some of that time will be spent in court.
  5. If the writing doesn’t communicate effectively, you won’t get the responses you need. Your recommendations, web pages, bids, requests, announcements, procedures, processes, technical requirements, shopping cart instructions, contracts, and other written pieces will fall short.

The company will fail, and everyone will be surprised. They will ask, “How could a company with such innovative ideas, talented employees, access to capital, and a clear niche possibly fail?”

The answer: Nobody at the top paid enough attention to written communication.

Denise, you asked for help, and I’m not sure I have given it to you. But if you care about good writing and others do not, I’m not sure how you can make them change their minds unless you are in a position to hire, fire, reward, discipline, and set company policy and direction. If you are in that place, get my guide Help Employees Write Better: A Guide for Managers, Trainers, and Others Who Care About Business Writing.

Would other readers please share ideas with Denise?


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

One comment on “Careless Company Writing = Failure”

  • Since the great business shift from print to online business, some may not emphasize the importance of quality of writing. However, I agree with you in that credibility established by well written information that appeals to a customers needs and values. Denise should visit for some tips on good writing from a professional PR writer.

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