Many of the requests I get for writing training start with, “My boss says I need to learn some writing skills.” Once these people are on my course, however, I start to feel the pushback: “If I write like that, my boss will kill me!”
Many of our ideas about business writing are rooted in misconception and, frankly, antiquity. Somehow, when we have to draft an email, report or proposal, there’s a perception that our words need to be overly formal, and chosen to impress. The result, often, is a document at least double the length it needs to be, and which reads like the company lawyer wrote it in collaboration with a thesaurus.
And when the junior staff don’t write like that, they are sent on the writing courses, when in fact, the entire company needs a writing overhaul, from the top down. Because the very bosses who are sending their more junior staff on my courses need just as much writing training as their minions do – and unless you work with everyone, the junior staff will always imitate those senior to them, for fear that they won’t fit in with company culture.
So if you’re considering sending someone from your company on a writing course, think about sending their seniors too. The chances are they’re trying to imitate their managers, instead of writing more naturally, and the problem is systemic.
And maybe it’s time for your writing style to be updated too – to move from formal and fusty to fresh and modern, while still maintaining a professional tone.
The best leaders lead by example. Maybe it’s time for you to join your staff on that course you so desperately want them to take.