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Bad Writing Costing New Zealand Businesses Billions

Writing coach says it’s time for a training revolution, puts his money where his mouth is.

A leading trainer says bad writing may be costing New Zealand billions of dollars every year.

Ken Grace, director of Department of Writing, says a recent US survey placed the cost of bad writing there at $US400 billion a year. Assuming things are similar here, New Zealand businesses will be losing about $NZ9 billion a year.

“C-level people can easily spend a quarter of their time reading,” says Grace. “Much of that is reports used to make important decisions. At best, bad writing wastes time. At worst it leads to poor decisions because something wasn’t clearly explained.”

Yet managers often report having given up trying to improve writing standards. That’s because typical training methods aren’t working says Grace.

“Most training focuses on do’s and don’ts. But you can obey all the rules in the world and still be a poor writer.”

Since 2011, Grace has been coaching people using a method that focuses on the reader experience. Companies who have become converts of this approach include Spark, Kiwibank, Fisher & Paykel Appliances and Ryman Healthcare.

“When US financial services firm BANCO switched to reader-friendly content on its customer-facing website, helpdesk calls fell by 17%. The company estimated its return on investment to be in the millions,” he says.

Rob Marshall, head of Risk and Assurance at Spark, says the new approach has caused a sea change. “The number of clarity-related pushbacks from senior decision makers has fallen dramatically,” he says. “They’re able to make better decisions with more confidence, and make them faster.

“What’s more, the time it takes to write each report has fallen from an average of three months to just one.”

Now Grace is offering his training approach for free. His newly published “The Seven Deadly Writing Sins – A guide for managers” offers a simple method of identifying the seven most common writing habits that impede clarity and productiveness, along with specific coaching for each.

“This book will help team leaders make an immediate difference to their people. For some, it means they’ll no longer have to work late at night fixing their team’s poor writing. That’ll be good for them, their organisations and for the people who work in them.”

“The Seven Deadly Writing Sins” is available for free download from

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