My Blogs and Articles
Davidson is a certified professional trainer, business coach and management consultant.
Driven by passion, he is an engaging and versatile presenter with over 20 years of experience in the training industry. Over the course of his career, he has trained over 1,000 companies comprising start-ups, SMEs, MNCs, government agencies and others all over Southeast Asia.
Below are Articles and posts I have written over the years and published on Various media.
Business Writing – an undervalued skill set that may be costly to your business
When I first got into the training industry more than two decades ago, most organisations and businesses were just starting to adopt the big, bulky PCs with floppy disks. Those of us from the 90’s era will certainly agree with me on how long it took to get connected to the internet every time with the ‘unforgettable’ dial-up tone (what felt like an eternity).
The adoption of digital evolution has today changed how businesses operate and the way we communicate in more ways than we can imagine. Information Technology (IT) related training was high on demand then, where corporations were eager to learn Windows, Microsoft applications, and many other applications in order to improve productivity.
With the rapid advancement in IT, this has led to globalisation, allowing businesses to now overcome geographical challenges and to seamlessly engage in multilateral trade. In order to remain competitive, it is imperative that organisations engage with their clients and business partners. A huge part of this is through written communication, which can in the form of proposals, quotations, letters, email, press releases, reports, marketing materials and so on.
The potential cost of poor business writing
Today, with the increasing popularity of instant messaging (IM) platforms and social media, the writing that many people adopt has become more informal, and unfortunately, this style of writing has even cascaded down to one of the most important formal business communication tools today – email. I still receive many emails that are typed in all small caps, all caps, without any paragraphing, or worst still, emails written in “shorthand”. How many of these have you come across?
- BAE = Before Anyone Else
- BC = Because
- BRB = Be Right Back
- FWIW = For What It’s Worth
- HBU = How About You
- ICYMI = In Case You Missed It
- IDC = I Don’t Care
- IMO / IMHO = In My (Humble) Opinion
- IRL = In Real Life
- JK = Just Kidding
- L8 = Late
- LMK = Let Me Know
- NBD = No Big Deal
- RN = Right Now
- SMH = Shaking My Head
- TBH = To Be Honest
- TFW = That Feeling When
- Thx = Thanks
- TMW = That Moment When
- TN = Tonight
- TTYL = Talk to You Later
- TY = Thank You
- WBU = What About You
- WYD = What (Are) You Doing
- YW = You’re Welcome
In my personal observations, many organisations have somehow overlooked the importance of not just writing, but the ability to write effectively based on these two popular beliefs:
1. Many corporations and businesses assume that the new generation of employees, consisting mainly millennial employees – who have a higher level of education (in the form of diplomas or degrees) – leading organisations to often presume that these employees have the ability to write.
2. Experienced managers would (or should) have mastered the art of writing, having been in the workforce for years. In fact, in many organisations, there may even be a case of the “blind leading the blind”.
Many corporations and businesses will not realise the impact of poor writing until it is too late. Josh Bernoff cited in his article that American businesses lose close to $400 billion every year on badly written materials from emails, reports, press releases, website content, and marketing materials. Another study from CollegeBoard, a non-profit organisation in the United States established by the National Commission on Writing, cited that businesses in America are spending as much as $3.1 billion on remedial writing training annually, with $2.9 billion accounted for training for its current employees, not new employees.
These are just some of the quantifiable costs – what about the costs that are not quantifiable? Poorly written materials, be it an email response from your customer service team to a client, company memos, press releases or any marketing contents that have unclear ideas, grammar mistakes or typographical errors, can and will affect your organisation’s reputation.
Cost-effectiveness vs real training needs – the potential setback
Very recently I had to cancel my training workshops in a neighbouring country due to the COVID-19 outbreak. I sent an email to the airline to cancel my flight and requested a full refund. The airline was very understanding and accommodating. However, when I received an email from them confirming the refund status, what shocked me was that the email was poorly written with numerous grammatical mistakes, among other errors. I remember the last line of the email said something along the lines of ‘if you are agreeable to this arrangement, please revert to this email’. An hour later I received a call from the airline, politely requesting for me to respond to the email with a confirmation that I indeed agree to cancel and that I am requesting a full refund.
The irony here is that I have trained this airline on World Class Customer Service and Business Writing Skills a few years ago. While they were maintaining their standards on providing world-class customer service, the same cannot be said for their business writing skills. This goes back to the two popular beliefs mentioned earlier. It could be a case that this customer service representative has not formally attended any business writing workshop before; their manager (who incidentally attended the training) has left the organisation; or that they were trained by someone who has not attended the training (blind leading the blind).
Bear in mind that it also cannot be assumed that all managers, whether formally trained or not will have the capacity (time) to guide their team on the intricacies of business writing, or spending time proofreading every email that goes out. This is probably what happened here as only a few people in this organisation were nominated to attend my training, leaving out the front-liners and those who communicate with the customers daily, be it current or new employees.
Business writing is an essential training worth investing in for all employees
One must also remember that emails are ‘on the record’ formal communication between internal stakeholders and external third parties, be it a supplier or a client. Emails are received cold, without the sender’s tone of voice and gesture to help, and it is up to the recipient to decipher the message based on their life experience.
Organisations should consider investing in training all employees, especially the front-liners, in a formal Business Writing workshop. The last thing any corporation or business would want is an email going out to a supplier with an intention to question the delayed delivery, which turns into a corporate confrontation, and ends up in litigation instead, all because of a poorly written email.
Drop me an email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp me (by clicking on the link below) if you are keen to know more or explore how Effective Business Writing in the 21st Century can benefit you as an individual or as a business.