At the close of a recent Better Business Writing workshop, a participant who works for a consulting firm asked a question I had never heard before. It went something like this:
If my employer bills $150 an hour for my work, should I take the time to edit and proofread what I write? Is it worth it?
As someone who would not be in business if clear, correct communication were not valuable, I immediately responded, "Yes, it's worth it!" That was my gut reaction.
Here is my thoughtful response. It is worth it to the consulting firm–and to all of us–because:
If unclear or incorrect writing reaches clients and customers, they lose confidence in us. They may begin to doubt our recommendations and conclusions, and they may eventually take their business elsewhere.
When presentations contain obvious errors, the audience focuses on the errors–not on the content.
If proposals contain errors, potential clients may say to themselves, "If this is their best work in the proposal stage, what kind of mistakes will they make on our project?"
Some errors cost money because work needs to be redone.
Some errors cost money and headaches because contracts are not clear about fees, or they include incorrect fees.
When writing is not clear, it requires the time and effort of many follow-up messages read by many people.
When writing is not clear and correct, it doesn't get the desired response.
To return to the student in Better Business Writing, his consulting firm needs to include the cost of producing clear, correct documents in its bids and proposals. It's the cost of doing business–and staying in business.
When it comes to written communication, it does take time and effort to get it right, but it takes so much more when we get it wrong!
Any comments on this subject? Please share them.