“Writing Repair” – Because Bad Writing Costs You Money

writing-erasing_edited-double.JPGI’m going to tell you about my “Writing Repair Service” in a moment. But first, a little history:

In 1976 I began working as a secretary for a large Japanese trading firm. Quickly, and quite unin- tentionally, I became more than just a secretary.

All of the department managers were from the Tokyo home office, assigned to work in the U.S. for several years before moving on to other locations. There were sales people from Japan and other countries, including China, Korea, and the Philippines. A few of the support people originally came from Latin America or Asia. Most were American born and educated. In short, I was in the midst of a mini-United Nations.

While the bulk of the communication between our office and Japan was conducted in Japanese, correspondence with our customers and local suppliers was in English. The foreign employees had varying degrees of English proficiency, but most were rather fluent and it was easy for them to read and speak the language. Writing it was a different story. They could get something down on paper, but not something that was ready for customers or suppliers to see. This came as no surprise.

What did surprise me was that many of the American employees had serious writing deficiencies as well.

Word quickly got around the office that I was a good writer, easy to work with, and willing to help. My co-workers started coming to me whenever they had to write something important. Manage- ment saw this collaboration as a good thing, and encouraged us. Because of my help:

  • distracting grammatical errors were eliminated, allowing the reader to focus on the intended message;
  • employees were no longer sending out poorly written letters that challenged the reader to figure out what was being said;
  • the company image was no longer undermined by correspondence that was in direct conflict with our promise to provide the highest quality products and services;
  • poorly expressed ideas, capable of causing damaging misunderstandings, were identified and corrected before they could cause conflicts – or worse, lawsuits;
  • writing took fewer hours out of the workday, because it was no longer a struggle;
  • employees became more confident about their ability to do a good job, because they were supported in their efforts to communicate their best ideas to full advantage.

People started calling me “The Living Dictionary” and “English- to-English Translator.”

I was promoted several times and eventually became a project manager for sales of special-engineered machinery for waterworks projects. All the while, I was moonlighting, in plain sight, as a “writing fixer-upper.” Virtually every reference letter and evaluation I received in my career cited my writing ability as a significant factor in the smooth completion of our projects, and my willingness to assist others as an important contribution to the company’s overall success.

But circumstances are never static, and life takes unexpected turns. In 2004, I decided it was time for me to go on to something else. I took some time to adjust to the changes in my life, and then decided to go into business for myself.

* * * * *

My years of experience have taught me that every company has some employees who need a “writing repair service.” When companies acknowledge the problem, and decide to do something about it, I can save them lots of time, trouble, and money.

Here’s what I do:

  • I correct obvious mistakes;
  • I identify and clarify passages that could be misunderstood;
  • I organize the information so that it flows logically from one idea to the next; and
  • I make the entire piece effective enough to achieve the desired result.

I can work from completed drafts; I can help during the formulation process; or, if someone has an idea but just doesn’t know how to get it down on paper, I can do the writing from scratch.

I’m not a teacher. I don’t do training sessions, seminars, or writing workshops. I think the impact of these is very limited. My personal opinion is that past a certain point, it’s just too late. My goal is not to turn people into good writers; my goal is to make their writing good.

I work directly with individual employees, perfecting their actual business correspondence and documents. People are usually aware of their own limitations, and welcome my support. Some companies see the value in this approach right away. Some need more convincing.

* * * * *

I am offering a new and different way of dealing with the problem of bad writing. Most companies have never considered using an outside party as a continuing resource for employees who need help with writing. But I believe it is the best way to get immediate and significant improvement. I am offering them a cost-effective solution that can eliminate the problem from the very first day.

Many executives I have spoken with acknowledge that the problem exists, but believe they already have an adequate way of dealing with it. Perhaps employees who are better writers are asked to assist those who need help. Perhaps supervisors make corrections before written work goes out. But these measures are hit or miss.

My way is better – here’s why. If I am available as a resource:

  • The problem is handled on a consistent, company-wide basis.
  • Employees who are good writers can focus on their own work.
  • Supervisors and managers can address their attention to the strategy or completeness of a piece, and not on the writing itself.
  • Pieces that have solid thinking behind them can be ready to go on the first shot, reducing the need for rewrites.
  • People, knowing that the company has provided a dedicated consultant to support their writing, are much more likely to ask for input. This is especially important for employees who aren’t expected to check their work with higher management.

Some executives don’t think writing matters. They don’t see that poor writing can ruin the company image, damage relationships with customers and suppliers, and cause disputes or lawsuits. They just don’t get it.

Want an example? I wrote to the president of a large foreign- owned company, and here’s what I got back:

WE HAVE NO NECCESITY AT THIS MONMENT,PLEASE CONTACT OTHERS.

This is not a joke. Can you imagine how frustrating it was to receive that?

* * * * *

I know some of you reading this are business owners who have faced the kinds of challenges I describe. I’d love to have your comments and hear about your experiences. Even better, if you are thinking, “I could really use her services at my company,” then I especially want to hear from you.

This blog is a place to talk about my business and about issues related to writing itself.

I have much to say. You are welcome to join me in the discussion.

Judy Rose

Could your business use my services?

Visit my website at www.jlrco.com or e-mail me at rose@jlrco.com.

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Key Concepts: business writing, writing, writing repair, employee communication, writing skills, education, basic skills, international, small business, marketing, clients, getting clients, consultant, grammar, spelling, text, organization of text, formulation of text, assisting management, writing mistakes, writing errors, employee support services, language, English, English writing, communication, effective communication, sales, sales pitch, customer relations, customer communication, lawsuits, disputes, conflicts, time-saving.

9 Comments

  1. Hello, I came across your blog while browsing through Technorati tonight. I think offering “writing repair” services to businesses is a fantastic idea! I, too, am constantly amazed at the poor quality of business writing that I encounter on a daily basis. Don’t managers and execs realize how this makes the company look?

    Anyway, I wish you all the best with your new endeavor.

    P.S. I spent many years working for a Japanese company in the U.S., so I’ve got the whole English-to-English translation bit down pat as well!

  2. I am both endeared and saddened by your endeavor. Endeared because I think it a novel and useful space to do business in, and sad because it really shouldn’t be necessary. The lackluster educations provided by the so-called “higher learning” institutions in this country are despicable.

    That said though, good luck with your business.🙂

  3. Brad, I think educational institutions are failing because they’ve gotten away from the basics. It’s good to explore a wide range of subjects and philosophies, but it’s not okay to do that at the expense of basic skills and core knowledge. I talked about that a little in another one of my posts, “A Workforce That Needs Writing Repair.” I appreciate your kind wishes for my business, and thanks for your comment.

  4. Hi:

    I’m not a natural English speaker. Sorry in advance.
    Nevertheless, I like to care about good writing.

    I think it expresses many things: education, manners, care about the reader, …

    I like to review a document and make improvements. It remembers me of a scene of a master painter that steps back a little to observe its own work and returns to it and make a tinny, but magisterial, change.

    Is fun! Is like solving a puzzle, like making a masterpiece. It is art.

    Sometimes it is the same with a text. They say that Honore de Balzac sometimes spent hours, even days, in a single special paragraph. In other place, I read that writing a good speech should take more less an hour for every minute of expected duration. And least, that any good writing that he made, said this speech writer, is expected to pass at least four revisions.

    I hope you the best in this new business. When you have something in Spanish to review, maybe I could help.

    Thank you,
    LS

  5. LS, Thanks for your comment. I like what you said about stepping back a little to observe your work. My husband refers to the first draft as the “passion draft.” You can pour all your fire into it and that feels good. Then, especially with any writing that is done for business purposes, you have to put it down, even if only briefly. When you come back to it, you can evaluate it more objectively and begin to make the refinements that turn it into a good piece of work. Thank you for your kind wishes for my business (and thanks for your offer).

  6. Just found your blog on Google and really enjoyed your writing style. Picked up a couple of great ideas so I’m adding your blog to my Bloglines account to share with others.

  7. Hi Mentor: Thanks for your comment and for sharing my site with others. I hope you’ll keep visiting.

  8. Hello, found you via Google. Please can you help me stop people starting letters with the phrase “I’m writing to you because ……………”. It drives me nuts. My English teacher always told us not to state the obvious in correspondence, and I’m writing to you because is so unimaginative. Hope you agree.

  9. Hi Paul,
    I’m writing to you because I get the joke.


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