The Cost of Writing

The Costs

T he importance of writing has been growing since the dawn of the personal computer age. But in a challenging economic environment, "Clear, concise writing, however, is as endangered as the whooping crane." - Write Brain blog writing can make the difference between success or failure for a company—and its individual employees. A company's image, efficiency, and, even existence depends on it.

Despite that, statistics abound showing that poor business writing is far more common that good writing --- "Corporations spend $3.1 Billion on remedial writing training." - US College Board survey result and, the direct cost to corporations is staggering.

Yet the indirect costs are immeasurably greater; resulting in lost business, costly errors and even calamities. In fact, the definitive report on the Challenger disaster traces the cause to a huge number of mis-communications.

A Sample Cost Analysis

The Cost of Poor Writing:A $6.6 Million-Dollar Inefficiency

In December of 2007, Fast Company reported in "E-Mail Is Dead" that Capital One gained 11 days of productivity per employee per year by requiring 3,000 employees to take an e-mail writing course.

For a company of that size, the cost benefit could be an amazing $6.6 million dollars annually, assuming an average salary and benefits package of just $50,000 per employee. This sort of savings can be demonstrated simply by applying statistical research, specific HR variables, and a basic math formula. Read through our example below or go right to our calculator to see how much poor writing skills may be costing your company.

Hypothetical Example

The cost of poor writing skills to the hypothetical company below is $1.5 million per year.

Consider the following variables:

The company has 1,000 employees who send and receive e-mail daily.
They write and send, on average, 10 e-mail messages per day.
On average, they send or copy each message to 3 different people.
By conservative estimates, 5 percent of e-mail messages require clarification.
The estimated time to clarify each e-mail lacking a clear purpose or request is 10 minutes. This includes reading and rereading the first message, calling or e-mailing the sender for clarification, and assimilating the new information.
Employee salaries average out to $50,000.00 per employee per year (approximately $24.00 per hour or $0.40 per minute).

Now do the math:

1,000 employees x 10 e-mails = 10,000 e-mail messages sent each day
3 recipients per e-mail message = 30,000 messages received 5 percent require clarification = 1,500 messages
1,500 messages x 10 minutes to clarify each one = 15,000 minutes of productivity wasted, daily, deciphering unclear messages
15,000 minutes of lost productivity @ $0.40 per minute = $6,000.00 of lost productivity per day
$6,000.00 x 250 working days per year = $1.5 million per year in productivity lost due to poor writing skills

Our example considers only the cost to clarify unclear messages. It doesn’t take into account the time and cost of tasks carried out poorly—or not at all—due to unclear requests for action.

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