Employees’ Poor Writing Skills Can Lead to Lost Profit

Employees’ writing skills – or the lack of them – substantially affect the bottom line in ways you may never have considered. Here are just a few.

* Badly written instructions can lead to incorrect procedures, lost time, damaged equipment, lost customers – and lost profit.

* Ineffective letters, which often took too long to write in the first place, can create a poor company image, wasted time, bad customer or supplier relations, lost customers – and lost profit.

* Interdepartmental miscommunication – often through incomprehensible e-mail exchanges – can lead to fragmentation of the workforce, loss of corporate loyalty, missed collaboration and innovation opportunities, possibly lost employees resulting in more recruitment and training costs – and lost profit.

* Cold, impersonal “boilerplate” letters in response to customers’ problems or complaints can lead to loss of those customers, bad news spread to their friends and colleagues, loss of present and future income – and lost profit.

Mangled syntax can cause expensive confusion, inconvenience or even danger. Here are just a few examples.

A consultant’s proposal on a new benefits package for his corporate client read, “By paying a 5% premium on wages, all employees will be enrolled in the company insurance program.” Who was supposed to pay the 5%? According to this sentence, the employees would pay – but in fact the company was to pay. It should have read, “By paying a premium of 5% of wages, the company can enroll all employees in its insurance program.” A big difference – and potentially a deal breaker.

A passenger broke into the flight deck on a commercial airplane. Subsequent investigation revealed that written regulations said, “The doors to the flight deck must be locked only on takeoff and landing.” What exactly does that mean? Must they be unlocked at other times? Or are they simply permitted to be unlocked at other times? Misinterpretation of this ambiguous message almost resulted in disaster.

An airport terminal sign read, “No smoking areas available.” Does that mean there are no areas where people may smoke? Or does it mean there are areas set aside for non-smokers?

A company tried to cancel a contract, believing the contract allowed it to do so under current conditions. But because of the incorrect placement of a comma in the agreement, the other party contested the cancellation, and successfully sued the company for $1.2 million. Expensive comma!

Corporate America spends billions of dollars annually on remedial writing programs for employees at all levels. Organizations who invest in this training understand the potential ROI that comes from eliminating such simple, but expensive, writing mistakes.