The organisations that are most successful in transforming the way they write are those that expect people to comply with a clear standard. We’ve seen this happen many times with many organisations over the years.
If you’re serious about using plain language to further your bottom line, you need to hold people accountable for the quality of their writing. But how do you send that ‘compulsory’ message?
Success depends on commitment
Castalia is an economic consultancy with offices in five countries. The organisation works all over the world, and often has to deal with clients whose first language is not English.
Even when Castalia was a small organisation, Chief Executive David Ehrhardt placed great importance on his staff’s ability to write clearly and simply. In 2007, with the business expanding and staff numbers climbing, Castalia developed an in-house writing standard.
According to David, Castalia’s Plain Language Standard — and the company’s expectation that all staff write to this Standard— plays a key role in the company’s continuous growth.
‘Since we began focusing on excellent writing 10 years ago, we’ve grown 20 percent each year,’ says David in Rewrite: How to overcome daily sabotage of your brand and profit. ‘Obviously we’ve used numerous strategies to achieve our growth, but we know that our uncompromising focus on clarity played a major part in achieving that success.’
Everyone needs to meet expectations
Creating a plain language standard is a key step towards better writing, but it won’t bring results on its own. As David says in Rewrite, you have to make meeting the standard as close to compulsory for your staff as possible.
‘[The Standard] is a vital tool for letting staff know that clear writing is not an optional extra, but is expected in everything they write,’ David says.
Castalia makes its plain language expectations clear by training people to write to its Standard from they day they begin work at the firm. Each new staff member works intensively on their writing with a more experience manager. The manager then arranges specific training if needed.
Do as I say, and as I do
In his role as Chief Executive, David sets his writing bar high and he makes sure everyone is aware of it. Even if a staff member has worked through the night to meet a deadline, David will tell them to start all over again if it’s not clearly written.
‘Clear writing is part of our brand,’ says David.’ It’s who we are. So it’s something staff have to do to be part of this organisation.’