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Business writing in the digital age: KISS redefined

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Today, we gather most of our information online. Given that we’re all deluged with too much information, we simply cannot read everything. So we scan, skip and filter as much as possible.

And yet we may make decisions based on a quick scan. If we get it wrong, what are the repercussions to us, to our organisation?

“Now that we’re living in an info-overload world, it’s even more important that our writing stands out,” says communications professional Nick Read. “And that our key messages are immediately relevant and understandable – with one quick glance.”

Nick Read facilitates the University of Auckland’s Executive Education course Business Writing Skills, which aims to significantly improve participants’ written communication skills.

Nick says the core principle is to keep our business writing short and simple. It must also be written in plain language so that its meaning is crystal clear.

Why is clear writing so important? Research shows that a staggering 70 percent of mistakes in business are due to poor communication – from incorrect ordering to misunderstandings and reworks. A report costs between $100-$200 per page to produce. So a 10 page report costs an organisation $1,000-$2,000. Poor writing, redrafting and correcting can rapidly escalate these costs.

So how do we learn to write simply and clearly? First, Nick says, we need to unlearn a lot of what we learned at school and university. Forget the business jargon and the big words, and concentrate instead on keeping it short and easy to understand. But be careful about your tone, too, so that you don’t sound abrupt or rude.

“Anyone can waffle – I see many examples every day. It takes mental discipline to clarify your complex ideas to express them clearly and concisely. As Einstein said, if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough,” says Nick.

In Nick’s course, you will gain knowledge, skills and practice in the four key areas of effective written communications:

  • Thinking about your message and the audience
  • Organising your thoughts logically for the reader
  • Using language that make your messages clear with one quick read
  • Formatting to ensure easy scanning and a professional look

You will learn thinking strategies that focus on how we process information. And you’ll leave with a toolbox of practical tips on how to make your writing clearer and more readable – whether it’s a hasty email or a complex report.

After taking the course, Nick says, it is not unusual for low readability scores of around 15 to soar to 50-60 or higher. With better communication skills, you can have better professional relationships – and greatly enhance your personal brand as well.

More information and registration: Business Writing Skills



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