Why great writing is more important than ever

The rise of social media and increased interest in videos and infographics as communication tools means many companies believe the ancient skill of writing is no longer relevant. While that couldn’t be further from the truth, unfortunately, it’s being borne out in the writing skills of new entrants into the workforce.

There are fewer skilled writers in business

Australia’s most recent NAPLAN tests showed that writing skills are on the decline[1] and, as far back as 2014, Psychology Today asked, “Why can’t college students write anymore?”[2]

Worryingly, these tests and observations only measure competency, or a basic level of writing skills. Talented, passionate, motivated writers are thin on the ground. Those with some modicum of ability are often attracted to the more ‘glamorous’ options such as writing fiction or articles for glossy magazines.

It’s not just basic skills like grammar and punctuation that are on the decline. In the communications industry, we’ve seen university graduates struggle with simple tasks like identifying news angles, summarising research reports, and turning technical information into interesting, logical copy.

This leaves an enormous gap for great writers in the general marketing and B2B space where, arguably, writers need to have the strongest skills so they can translate complex information into compelling narratives.

Surprise! People are still reading

“What does it matter if people can’t write?” you may ask. The new generation of workers and consumers is preoccupied with videos and snapchats and selfies and infographics. No one has time to read anything anymore.

Or do they?

Recent research shows that 18- to 29-year-olds are the age group most likely to read, with 80 per cent having read a book in any format over the past year. That’s compared to 73 per cent of Generation Xers and 70 per cent of Baby Boomers.[3]

The same research also showed that these people are more likely to read for a purpose than for leisure.

That means that written business communication is alive and well. But still suffering from a shortage of great writers.

Just how good do writers need to be, anyway?

Writing well is important because great ideas and concepts can get lost if they’re not communicated clearly and compellingly.

Businesses looking to stand out from the crowd can do so by offering content that resonates with audiences. Whether it’s a blog or social media feed, or whitepapers and case studies, it’s important to find a writer that can embody the tone and personality of your business, while conveying key messages in a way that leaves no room for misunderstanding.

The US fast food brand Wendy’s has achieved social media adulation through its hilarious Twitter feed in which the brand mocks its competitors and, on request, its followers. Doing this effectively in 140 characters or less demonstrates the skill of the writer(s) behind the Wendy’s account. As any good writer knows, it’s harder to write great copy in fewer words.

The Australian wallet company, Bellroy, offers a great example of simple, impactful writing done well. The copy is to-the-point, sparse and yet luxurious. This reflects the brand’s offering, which started with slim wallets and has expanded to include covers and cases for all the things we carry. Everything from the website’s meta description to its product descriptions reflect that overarching message of simplicity.

A brand with a clear voice doesn’t get that way by accident. It takes great writers, and sometimes a whole team of them, to develop the right messages and communicate them using carefully-chosen words and phrases.

The result is a loyal group of customers that are attracted to your brand because they identify with it on a deep and individual level. They understand the ‘why’ of your brand and are excited to align themselves with it.

It takes time, commitment, and, above all else, talent to achieve this. Talk to us today about how we help our clients develop and communicate their unique voices. 

[1] http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/parenting/school-life/naplan-results-show-decline-in-writing-skills/news-story/4e37271271df328a4386e09b5232229b

[2] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-first-impression/201402/why-can-t-college-students-write-anymore

[3] http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/09/01/book-reading-2016/

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