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Quality of Writing in UK Businesses – Managers

November 12, 2010


Managers are stuck in the middle.  Writers blame them for not giving clear enough instructions and directors put pressure on them to get the job done more quickly and better.

What they say

In their responses to the survey, managers agreed with senior people on their assessment of the evidence and the causes of poor writing quality, but they were more sceptical about the value of the various processes in place to protect standards – such as templates, boilerplate text and dedicated proofreaders.

What this shows us

Does this suggest that managers are more aware of the limitations of these measures?  Managers are also writers after all, and in many organisations will encounter the same difficulties as their junior colleagues.  In fact, they find themselves in the invidious position of being expected to be writing experts who can guide their teams when nothing in their training or experience has prepared them for such a role.  In short, they do not know if their way of writing is any better than that of the writer whose work they are reviewing.  They lack an objective ‘standard’, or reference point.

However, if they go about it the right way, managers are in a very strong position to improve writing quality.  They have the ear of senior people and understand the difficulties of juniors so they are well placed to see the effect that small changes can make.

Top Recommendation

Managers should use their position to bring the two sides, writer and organisation, together, and identify where interventions would be most effective.  For example, there may be individuals who need training, but this may not be the best place to start.  Training is wasted if the new skills learned are poorly understood by those further up the hierarchy, and is pointless if the real problem is embedded in the corporate culture or process.  A better approach may be to raise the profile of team briefings and support them with a clear timetable with feedback built in.

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