Bad Web Writing: What Is the Cost? $3 billion in losses!

In one of his books, Joseph Kimble writes: Try to imagine the costs of poor writing… in business, government and law“.

The costs are almost beyond imagination and I can demonstrate it to you with this small example. ????

If user guides are poorly written, customers will no longer purchase your offerings. When it comes to clerical errors in your marketing campaign, it’s even worse. You will lose credibility and the image of your brand will be tarnished.

Then imagine how much all this could cost your business financially and on your brand in the long run. Huge, right? ????

Now if you decide to rewrite your guides, you still have to spend at least half (or $5,000) of your initial budget.

This example is just the tip of the iceberg, as companies waste an average of $3 billion on poor writing.

Bad writing dangerously affects your business on several levels and can even call into question its existence when the financial losses are enormous..

Before you panic, let me show you what bad writing really is. I have also put together some practical tips to help you spot errors in your writing.

What is good writing and bad writing?

It is true that spelling and grammar make your writing better. But this is only the first step in developing a good text.????

It’s equally important to make sure what you write is technically correct. For the sake of comparison, it’s good that your computer has a scratch-free shell, but you also need to check that its keyboards work correctly as well as other technical parts.

As a writer, you must ensure that your text is grammatically correct, clear and concise. And that’s not all, it must be expressive and entertaining.

image 7

Source : pressbooks

Indeed, you must make readers want to continue reading you, despite all the distractions they face. People don’t always need a strict text like law classes. ????

Sometimes, they want to escape from the technical content they face all day long. Don’t add to it, offer something simple and fun.????

Furthermore, a good text is one that satisfies the reader more quickly and does not embarrass them with more information than is necessary.

It can be exciting to show the history of the Louis Vuitton brand in a text titled “why Louis Vuitton products are high quality”.

But between us, what is the point of wasting minutes on someone who expects to discover the raw material, designates it and others to talk to them about the beginnings of the brand and its growth? ????

This is really not bad if it shows in one sentence that quality is the very foundation of the brand.

But when you dedicate an entire section to brand history, it’s likely that readers will abandon it in favor of other resources.

That said, a good editor goes straight to the point and cares about every detail they give.

Because I said so”, that’s what the teacher’s response is to his students when they ask him why he is so picky.

In fact, what you write bears your signature or the one you wrote for. Therefore, this can backfire on the author even years later when the details turn out to be incorrect or inconsistent.

And can you imagine the consequences? This is why every detail you add to your content must be correct and must be worth appearing in the content.

A good text is also a text that keeps its promises and that your audience does not regret reading. It’s good to promise that at the end of your content, the reader will be able to create their business and earn their first million. I’m not going to comment ???? just be honest with your readers.

This is in detail what makes good writing, but what about bad writing?

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Source : johnswaffs

It is obvious that poor writing does not meet all the criteria we mentioned previously. Unfortunately, such content is everywhere on the web and even in certain administrative documents.

It’s common to see blog articles with tons of mistakes and very boring, poorly written announcements, emails that don’t make you want to read, landing pages that don’t reassure… ????

And the real problem is the fact that many companies don’t even know it or simply don’t have the means or time to put this all in order.

But you should know, bad writing has serious consequences on your business. Let’s see how this is possible.

Why is bad writing harmful to your business? ????

Most people admit that bad writing “can” hurt businesses, but they don’t realize the extent of this harm. If that doesn’t worry you, you’re on the verge of some truths that might shock you about this.

As a reminder, all companies invest in marketing to promote their products or services in a world where competition is in full swing.

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Source : investopedia

Note that writing plays a vital role in marketing, including the choice and placement of a word in a message to make millions or sink an entire company.

But despite this, bad writing is omnipresent and manifests itself in:

  • Newsletters that only reach a fraction of the targeted audience;
  • Press releases that never make the front page;
  • Websites that do not inform or inspire readers to take action;
  • Forms and applications that are incorrectly completed or left incomplete;
  • Memos and business letters that require endless clarification;
  • Legal opinions and procedures that no one can read.

In his book Working with Plain Language, William H. DuBay, readability expert at Impact Information, writes that poor writing is the cause of 40 % costs of managing commercial transactions.

For some, this is just a percentage, but the costs of poor writing run into the billions per year. The problem is so deep that some businesses have had to close because of the consequences that arise from poor writing.

Based on a survey of 547 business professionals, Josh Bernoff was able to estimate the total cost of bad writing in America at $400 billion. ????

It’s huge and unrealistic, isn’t it? And yet, this is what is actually happening. Let’s see how this is possible.

Some examples of bad writing and their consequences

Through these examples below, we will see how a seemingly minor mistake can cost a business a fortune.

1. Underestimating problems and overusing euphemisms

Lack of transparency is one of the common problems that organizations and sometimes politicians face. But failure to admit the truth in its entirety can lead to a downfall.

Nowadays, people are able to check the facts themselves. That said, when you try to disguise the truth, it’s a lot easier to uncover than you think. ????

This is a reality and the American automobile giant, General Motors, has learned this the hard way. The company suffered financial disaster after it downplayed vehicle malfunctions.

It was a mistake that not only cost General Motors more than a billion dollars, but also put lives in danger.

Indeed, when the company had a problem with the ignition switch of its “Chevrolet Cobalt” model in 2014, it underestimated the problem. This caused the airbags to deactivate, but the company didn’t take care of it.

image 10

Source : vox

For its internal communications, the company referred to this issue as a “customer convenience issue.” This expression with which the situation was described did not immediately make the employees react, because they had other, more important tasks.

The consequence of this poor formulation of the problem (with inappropriate themes) leads the company to recall 2.6 million cars. This cost the company more than $1.7 billion in total.

2. Spelling, grammar and punctuation errors

This problem is very recurring both on the Internet and in real life. People pay attention to small details and may even notice the absence of an accent on “e”.

But what content creators don’t know, a missing comma can create disaster. The real question is how such a small detail can shake up an entire business. ???? This is what we will see with our second example.

This dairy reworked the overtime exemptions for its delivery drivers in 2017.


Source : wgme

The new rules detail all the tasks that were exempt from overtime. It was “packaging for shipping or distribution.”

But to everyone’s surprise, Oakhurst Dairy workers took legal action against the company and based their argument on an essential element that was missing from the sentence: the comma.

Indeed, the workers believe that the absence of the comma in the sentence gave the impression that it was about a single action, when in reality, it is about two distinct actions: packaging for shipping, distribution…

The absence of the comma suggests that either it is the packaging for shipping that is exempt from overtime or it is the packaging for distribution, but not both.

The consequence of this seemingly innocuous mistake was that the court ruled in favor of the workers, such that the company was obliged to pay $5 million in overtime.

3. Sloppy editing and lack of attention to detail

Content editing is a task that requires a lot of attention, but which people neglect most of the time in businesses.

However, when small errors appear in your content, it calls into question your entire work and you will not only lose credibility, but also enormously in terms of cost.

And this time, it was NASA who discovered it in a rather harsh way. During 1999, NASA’s Mars Orbiter missed its orbit and disintegrated in the atmosphere. ????A huge loss for NASA.

No one could understand how an agency of this reputation could make mistakes in the calculation of such an important project.

In reality, there was an obvious error that no one had seen. The designer of the rocket that would send the orbiter into space used imperial units of measurement while NASA uses the metric system.

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Source : blogspot

This could be discovered if the people involved in the project paid attention to the numbers when entering data. Unfortunately, this lack of attention cost NASA $125 million.

How can good writing help businesses?

Good writing allows a company to improve the productivity of its internal employees, but to achieve its sales objectives through better communication. In general, good writing makes you:

To save money

The delivery company FedEx saved 400 000 dollars per year by rewriting its operating manuals.

The goal was to reduce the time it took users to find the information they were looking for by 80%, not to mention the cost of errors made when users couldn’t find the right answers.

Win time

The Federal Communications Commission rewrote the CB regulations in 1977 in clear language, so users no longer need to ask questions.

As a result, the 5 people who answer questions about the regulations are reassigned to another department.

Encourage people to take action

In an experiment, the American army rewrote a memo intended for 129 officers. She then suggested that they carry out a specific task.

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Source : silocreativo

It was found that those who received the more readable memo were twice as likely to take action on the day they received it.

Improve the service

As a result of rewriting its manuals for software, General Motors saved up to 375 000 per year for each customer with revised manuals. This made it possible to reduce the number of calls per day by 125 calls per customer.

How to spot your own writing errors?

It is much easier to spot mistakes in the writing of others than in your own text. What irony! ????

There are a set of telltale signs of bad writing that I’m going to walk you through. When you write a lot of content, it’s easy to fall into bad habits.

And because editors are required to deliver their work within predetermined deadlines, they tend to fall back on what works in order to finish more quickly.

But this affects the quality of the texts you produce, especially when you do not have in-depth knowledge of the subject of your article.

This is noticed by writing that is vague, unclear, without direction or, worse, with too many directions. Good writing has a specific goal, which will keep your readers happy and coming back for more.

The ideal when you do not have knowledge or proven writing skills is to entrust this task to an experienced writer to avoid errors that could harm you in the future..

But when you’re a writer looking to minimize mistakes in your writing, you need to be careful not to do these things:

Skip the player

Even though the style may be great, when your content doesn’t meet what the reader wants, it actually has no value. To do this, make sure that all your texts clearly address the reader’s problem or pain.

The absence of revision

I touched on it earlier, writing can be improved by multiple rewrites for not only correction, but also for the elimination of excess. This is all the more necessary when you have the feeling that your text is not even better.

Clumsy or almost non-existent transitions

No matter what you write, you need to connect your sentences and paragraphs. Readers don’t really like ideas that aren’t clearly explained or left hanging.

As a writer, it is your job to get your message across and under no circumstances should you assume that readers understand what you are saying.

Filler words

Get in the habit of eliminating filler words like “um” and “ah” from your writing. It’s a good idea to use readability measurement tools to make sure you’re writing in a way that most people will understand.

You can find such functions in the Antidote fault correction software. In our content on how to avoid spelling mistakes, we covered a set of tools that can help you improve content readability.

Don’t bore your readers

Bad writing is boring, especially when it’s too confusing, too disinterested, exaggerated, or leads nowhere and offers nothing.

In addition, use correction tools to detect the various errors that appear in your content. The ideal is to combine at least two tools, because it happens that one of them does not detect all the faults.

In summary

As you can see, the costs linked to poor writing and its consequences can be enormous for a company.

We discovered through this article that an error, no matter how small and regardless of the medium, can be costly for a company.

On the other hand, good writing will save you a lot of money and time, encourage people to take action and improve your services.

This is why companies must resolve to only share readable, clear, concise and error-free texts.

So take your writing service much more seriously and use the techniques we’ve covered to consistently spot bad writing.

If you feel that you do not have the writing skills to provide your business with high-quality texts, we offer you entrust the writing of your content to professional editors.

At Honadi, we are a team of experienced editors who work hard to offer our partners unique content free from any awkwardness.

We write for many media and we can help you create your internal documents and web resources, whether blog articles, ebooks, landing pages, emailing, forms, etc.

Hoping that this content will help you make the best decision about writing your texts, we suggest you also read how to increase sales with personalized content.

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