Poor writing is costing businesses billions

A recent survey in the USA found that poor writing is costing American businesses billions. That is, nearly $400 billion every year.

Last year professional writer Josh Bernoff surveyed 547 American business writers to assess the state of writing for a ‘read-on-screen’ world. Bernoff found that 81 percent of those surveyed believed poorly written material was wasting their time.

Poorly written material is wasting people’s time — and money

‘Poor writing creates a drag on everything you do,’ says Bernoff. ‘It functions like a tax, sapping your profits, and I can quantify it.

‘According to my analysis, America is spending 6 percent of total wages on time wasted attempting to get meaning out of poorly written material. Every company, every manager, every professional pays this tax, which consumes $396 billion of our national income.’

Dollar sign above and 'Losses' on sign below.
Poor writing functions like a tax (Image by 401(K) 2012 (CC BY-SA 2.0))

Unclear content frustrates readers

Most of those surveyed identified themselves as business owners, executives, managers, analysts, and other professionals. Bernoff found that the poor quality of what these professionals read frustrated them.

They rated the overall effectiveness of what they read as only 5.4 out of 10. And a large majority said poorly written material wasted their time. Their main complaints were that content was too long, poorly organised, unclear, and full of jargon.

But the problem is (relatively) easy to solve

Despite the enormity of the problem, Bernoff is quick to point out that it’s a problem that’s easy to solve. ‘And we can solve it one company, one culture, one worker at a time,’ he says.

The problem of wasted time and money from poor writing is no surprise to us. Lynda Harris’s book Rewrite: How to overcome daily sabotage of your brand and profit is a tool designed to tackle this very problem. By taking a whole-organisation approach to changing writing culture, Rewrite spells out how organisations can overcome what can be serious sabotage of an organisation’s brand — and profit.

Read Bernoff’s article explaining the findings of his research

Use our handy calculators to find out how much how much poor writing might be costing your organisation.

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