We just published a case study/how to article in Training Magazine based on a half-day customized writing workshop we did for a medical credentialing organization. In a nutshell, the organization was struggling with the letters it sent to its diplomates—the letters were long (five pages wasn't unusual); contained too much information; and often contained information that readers didn’t necessarily need. We analyzed the letters and developed a workshop that focused on these issues and more.When we followed up with the organization three months later, they listed the many efficiencies they’d gained from our workshop, some of which included fewer questions from readers about the letters, reduced time spent writing, cost-savings, and no more proofreading/editing required by the organization’s director. This organization was very pleased with what we were able to accomplish in such a short timeframe.
The other issue that this organization had (and many organizations have) with efficient scientific and technical writing is that the writers were using models from past letters; that is, rather than think about what they were trying to accomplish with the writing and/or what the reader needed, they simply used other letters to write their own. Never mind that a past letter wasn't a good "fit" for what they were trying to accomplish, it was easier to use the model and too often, writers aren't given good guidance about what they should be doing when writing in terms of planning, thinking carefully about their audience and what their audience wants, and how they can write to achieve their purpose. In other words, writing is just something that's done, but oftentimes writers simply don't take the time to carefully consider why they're writing and what they hope to achieve. This isn't a criticism of the writers themselves--most of them don't do this simply because they haven't been trained to and thus lack any real strategies to implement.
When writing a technical, scientific, or business document, writers should take the time to ensure that they understand why they're writing and what they hope to accomplish and use concise writing techniques.