Creating a culture of quality in writing

Hat tip to my friend Phil Buckley, who pointed out this article about the importance of writing in business. As customers do more purchasing online, the quality of your written presentation is becoming literally the face of who you are as an organization.

One quote: “Effective writing must be a company-wide endeavor.”

Back in the day, I was a reporter at an afternoon newspaper, meaning the work day started at 7 a.m. and the press ran at 1. No one left the building until the first copies were pulled off the press and everyone – reporters, receptionist, lady who sold classified ads, the bookkeeper, etc. – read through it looking for mistakes. We could still stop the presses before we looked dumb for spelling a word wrong in a headline or whatever.

Today, you are definitely winning because you can fix mistakes at any time after you push publish. Your challenge is to produce the culture where everyone is a writer that author Kyle Wiens talks about. Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • It is our writing, not yours. People are often very sensitive to being edited. Use language carefully, when you talk about improving writing. You are making everyone look better, not making an individual writer look worse.
  • Reward success. Find a way to highlight accomplishments in improving writing, whether it’s writing well, a good catch on a typo or a great suggestion for an organization-wide practice. Use rewards consistently and publicly.
  • Make writing a formal part of the job. Creating/maintaining/improving the organization’s public face should be written in everyone’s job description, and part of everyone’s evaluations.
  • Plan to check back. You can fix problems whenever you see them. In that sense, work online is never really done, which is both depressing and exciting. But catching a typo in the post you wrote last month is as useful as catching one from today. So remind people to do both.
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