Whether you are a CEO, a director, a manager, a coordinator, or a security guard, you should take a moment to carefully think about your answers to the following questions. How often do you worry about crafting responses to colleagues’ emails? How long does it take you to write a short (five sentences or fewer) email? Do you ask coworkers to clarify or expand upon their messages? Do you get caught up in seemingly endless email tag? Has a poorly written note led to a misunderstanding that required more time to rectify than you could spare? Have improperly written procedures jeopardized safety or quality? Have poorly written performance reviews or quarterly “check-ins” compromised morale and departmental (or even company-wide) success? Can you add more questions to this list? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you may benefit from the Corporate Wordsmiths blog. If you’re not on board yet, then perhaps you’re the type of person who needs some data, like me.
Let’s explore some facts about email. The Radicati Group, a technology market research company in Palo Alto, California, found that “[i]n 2015, the average number of business emails sent and received per user per day totals 122 emails per day…and is expected to average 126 messages…by the end of 2019.” In the same report, Radicati also wrote that the “Average Number of [Business] Emails Sent” in 2015 was 34. For what follows, I have no official data, which is why my estimations are conservative. If we can agree that two minutes is a fair estimate for responding to an email, then we can reasonably say that you spend at least 68 minutes a day writing work emails. 68 minutes is roughly 13% of an eight-hour work day. Again, that’s time you spend writing only emails. Add time you spend on other kinds of writing to that figure and you might find yourself agreeing with me: businesses need to invest more in improving your writing.
From performance reviews to executive summaries to procedures to minutes to job postings, writing is ubiquitous in business. Whether your writing is bad or good rests in part on your company’s values. To reduce the effects of bad writing and poor communication in general, businesses must teach and encourage all employees to practice effective discourse. Until that happens, become your own wordsmith.