What is business writing?
Business writing is a targeted form of writing designed to facilitate clear communication within and between private organizations, their peers, and their customers in order to produce desirable business results. Business writing can include sales and marketing materials; training and educational content; communications like emails and memos; reports and presentations; administrative materials like Standard Operating Procedures; and more. In fact, “business” writing refers to any form of writing that is used within a business environment.
Business writing isn’t an add-on or secondary skill. It’s a primary part of everyone’s job!
Why is business writing important?
Writing is the primary way business gets done in today’s collaborative world. When it’s done well, business gets done well. Well-written proposals lead to more revenue; clearly written memos and reports lead to deeper insights; clever marketing materials boost marketplace reputation.
Indeed, business writing has multilayered impacts on organizations. Better business writers are more effective in their roles. They can produce written materials that are more likely to achieve their goals, from making a new sale to satisfying auditors, executives, or the Board of Directors.
But they can also produce those documents faster, making them more productive overall. That, in turn, can affect employee morale and engagement. When employees are equipped with the skills to do their jobs effectively, they’re more likely to be satisfied with their work and happy with their employer.
Then, when writing is not done well, it creates a slew of business problems, undercutting business performance and the bottom line. That’s why we believe it is the most important business skill.
Unfortunately, despite how important business writing is, many organizations fail to give it its due. Consider its shocking omission in The Association for Talent Development’s State of the Industry Report, which ranks learning content by content area (see the chart below). Writing is absent!
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In other words, organizations spend time, money, and effort to help their teams learn and develop new skills in areas like management, compliance, sales, customer service, and many others. But not writing?
Perhaps organizations assume that college-educated workers will automatically be good writers, so they don’t worry about it. Or maybe they just don’t fully understand or appreciate the importance of business writing.
True, written content may be covered somewhat in some of the other content areas, such as managerial and supervisory, interpersonal skills, and executive development. But there’s no doubt that writing is underrepresented in organizations’ learning priorities—and given why business writing is so important, it needs to be more than “somewhat” covered in training.
Business writing is so important, its underutilization will undermine profitability.
Here’s the big issue: poor writing is costing organizations dearly, and many organizations are doing little or nothing about it. Writing expert Josh Bernoff has emphasized the importance of writing by quantifying the annual cost of poor writing to U.S. businesses at $396 billion—and that could be an understatement of the effects of poor writing skills.
Skeptical? Take a look at this small sampling of how effective writing can benefit an organization.
What is the purpose of business writing?
1: Effective business writing drives sales.
Marketing copy and proposals play a huge role in the sales process. If poorly written, these materials make your organization seem unprofessional and incompetent, creating a terrible first—and often last—impression. If written effectively, however, they show that your organization is smart and capable, helping you generate more leads and convert more sales. Overall, training in soft skills like writing has been found to drive a 256% ROI, according to research from Harvard University, Boston University and University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.
2: Effective business writing boosts your brand reputation.
Most people experience your organization through your written content—your website, your social media, your email blasts, emails, and reports. Writing also heavily influences clients’ experience of your organization, with written communication from or with your employees and your written deliverables both coloring that experience. Clearly, improving writing quality will make a positive difference in how people experience, and therefore view, your organization.
3: Effective writing bolsters efficiency, productivity, and innovation.
What work task, on average, do people in your organization spend the most time on? There’s a good chance it’s writing. What work task do people in your organization struggle the most with? There’s a good chance the answer here is also writing. Improving employees’ writing skills means they do a huge chunk of their jobs better (usually faster, too). And because effective writing means employees are communicating clearly in documents and emails – and avoiding miscommunications – readers are much less likely to need clarification or to make time-wasting misinterpretations. This efficient communication also ends up improving innovation, as team members collaborate better, and fewer delays gum up the process.
4: Effective writing powers quality management.
Effective written communication is an important component of quality management. When managers write clear emails and work instructions, not only are employees more likely to produce the results that managers expect, but it can also improve employee relations because clear managerial communication promotes a collaborative atmosphere.
5: Effective writing aids bench strength and retention.
Because quality written communication is important for good management, helping employees hone their writing skills prepares them to rise in the organization, thereby strengthening your internal talent pipeline, and in turn aiding in retention, as employees are happy that they are learning valuable skills for their career and have prospects for advancement.
We have Business writing courses spanning multiple disciplines Explore our courses to find exactly the training you need!
Explore our courses to find exactly the training you need!
Why Do Many Organizations Fail to Provide Effective Business Writing Training?
Given all the reasons why writing is business is so important, this is a question we ask ourselves all the time. The answer itself has a few components.
Fundamentally, many organizations don’t recognize how important quality writing is for success. For example, they may not think writing training can significantly improve employees’ writing (they’re wrong). Others seem to just rely on the educational system to have given employees sufficient writing skills (clearly, this isn’t happening—our observation is writing skills have declined in recent years, likely due to texting and social media).
But the truth is, the purpose of business writing is to build a stronger business with greater revenue and more efficiency – and there’s nothing more important than that!
For more on the importance of business writing, read our white paper “The ROI of Effective Writing” (no registration required). If your team needs help honing their writing skills, contact us today! We can create a customized onsite, online, or webinar that's sure to fit the bill.