Why are writing skills important for professional success?

A few years ago, the editing software company, known as Grammarly, concluded a 10-year study on LinkedIn which showed that people who achieved over six promotions in their career had 45 percent fewer grammar errors in their profiles than those who received four or less promotions.  In this sense, the evidence speaks volumes.

Businessman writing, drawing on blank space

Standards of Hiring Managers

In general, we’re experiencing less face-to-face and more text in our business communications.  Whether you’re connecting via e-mail or through a website, your written words are often all that will differentiate you from everyone else.

You are not only decreasing your own level of credibility by not properly distinguishing among their, there, and they’re, you are also doing the same for the company you are representing.  Moreover, individuals with poor written communication skills are less likely to be hired in comparison to their more literate counterparts.

“Grammar is my litmus test.  If job hopefuls can’t distinguish between to, two, and too, their applications go into the [trash] bin”—Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit

Kyle Wiens is not alone in that choice, and grammar isn’t the only problem.  Despite the fact that English is only the third most popular language in the world (after Mandarin and Spanish), it is still the Lingua Franca (the “first choice” for non-English speakers) for trade, transportation, and business.

You certainly wouldn’t want an Italian-only air traffic controller directing a French-only aircraft pilot while landing at a busy airport.  All ATCs and flight crew speak English by international agreement.

Similarly, businesses conduct their international affairs in English to eliminate confusion and miscommunication.  That is no mean feat for one of the most difficult languages to learn for a non-native speaker.

Overcoming  Adversity

Dyslexia is a disorder that affects the way certain individuals process letters and words, hindering their ability to read and write.  It is also believed to currently affect 5 to 17 percent of the population in the U.S. Some extremely talented and intelligent individuals are afflicted with dyslexia, yet unfortunately, the condition can result in an overload of excess difficulties where writing is concerned.

However, in 2008, a graphic design major named Christian Boer created a very special typeface called Dyslexie, which is designed to reduce the chance for dyslexia sufferers to transpose or flip characters when reading.  The font utilizes “anchoring techniques” so letters and words are easier to process.

Luckily, Dyslexie is an application that can be purchased in many forms, whether for business, personal, or educational use.

Tips for Written Communication

Here are some rules to follow to improve the quality of your business writing.  As Shakespeare liked to remind us, “Brevity is the soul of wit,” so to begin:

  • State your objective right away and use the remainder of your communication to show why it is valid.
  • Keep sentences relatively short. Except for lists, or parenthetical phrases like this one, limit your commas to less than two per sentence.
  • Leave “whitespace” between (short) paragraphs. It gives the eye a chance to rest, and the mind a moment to assimilate the information.  Large blocks of text are visually intimidating and decrease the likelihood of being remembered.
  • Write to your audience. Something acceptable at Google® in Silicon Valley will likely not be acceptable at a major legal firm in New York City. Sending an SMS to a friend is considerably different from addressing a CEO at another company.
  • If you don’t know your correspondent personally, be sure to address your recipient with an expected level of formality.
  • Never send your first draft of anything. Write it; put it aside; do something unrelated for a few minutes.  Once your mind has spent some time safely on a different topic, go back and read it again, trying to see it from the recipient’s point of view.
  • Clear writing demonstrates clear thinking, so make your topic evolve as you write, and build to a logical conclusion.
  • Modern writing tools provide us with the ability to include charts, graphs, spreadsheets, and images to help us make our points. These are terrific tools, but don’t overuse them.  If your serious white paper intended for prospective investors is starting to look more like an Infographic from a comedy website, you should probably rethink it.
  • Do not begin sentences with “and” or “but”, and also try not to use the word “but” in areas where it can be avoided. People intuitively understand that everything to the left of the word “but” can be ignored in most sentences.

Image of human hands with pen writing business plan

The Takeaway

No piece of writing is perfect, nor will it ever be.  The most well-designed, pithy remark, such as “I think therefore I am,” can still be inappropriate when more detail is required.  Brevity may be wit, but being too brief can be witless.

Whether words have official status or not, sometimes they are simply bothersome in formal writing or don’t enhance what you are saying.  Choose your words for purposes of clarity.  Don’t be afraid to be more descriptive for the same reason.  Organize your objectives in an orderly manner to achieve your goals.

There’s seldom a reason to barrage your audience with an overabundance of industry-related jargon or slang.  Be clear, succinct, fairly traditional, and use your spelling and grammar checks, or any other helpful tools.  Anyone can become a better writer if they are willing to expend the time and effort.


Fred Coon, CEO

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