I’ve always known that clear writing was behind much of what’s good in this world. We need to understand each other.  Often we do that through the written word.

can bad writing sink shipsAn article earlier this week in the Globe and Mail quotes a report about  a Windsor, Ontario hospital where two cancer-free women were given mastectomies  because of inaccurate tests and other problems.

On top of concerns about medical and management issues, the  authors insisted that “reports need to be complete and readable. Inconsistencies, ambiguities or significant typographical errors can lead to misinterpretation by clinicians, treatment errors  and miscommunication to patients.”

The next time someone fails to grasp the importance of clear writing or thinks all I do is  “add spin,” I’m sending  this link.

I thought about it again, this morning when I was reading comments in the  IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) Linked discussion about why business communication is so awful and how we can improve it.

Natalie pointed out that “there’s no obvious ROI because poor writing doesn’t generally sink ships. It just alienates customers and prospects…produces unsuccessful proposals and reports…and creates hugely inefficient organizations. Not to mention all those unknown missed opportunities.”

If unclear hospital reports can contribute to surgical mutilation, there’s every chance bad writing could lead to much worse, not just in hospitals.

I’d love to start collecting examples of when unclear writing sinks ships. Do you have any you’d like to share?

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