Your organization could spend less time writing and reviewing—and produce better documents

 
You might see writing as secondary, but…
Most employees spend more time writing than almost anything else. Many people don’t realize how central writing is to doing business well.

Most organizations endure these common problems


 

What this all adds up to


 

Many documents are twice as long as they need to be.

Writers work hard, in isolation, without achieving the mastery (or confidence) that makes writing easier.

Creating documents includes significant time waste.

Hide-and-seek messages make management and other readers work hard to extract information.

High-value, time-pressured executives expend too much brain power editing documents.

The cost of a document is the number of hours to create, review, and finalize it, multiplied by the salary of each person involved.

Documents boomerang between writers and reviewers multiple times, delaying delivery and creating stress.

Documents are often not clear and usable for the end reader, despite the human and organizational cost to create them.

Risk can result from unclear content which:

  • obscures critical info
  • slows down decisions
  • confuses and alienates employees and customers
  • creates foggy processes
  • weakens compliance and reporting

Most organizations endure these common problems

Many documents are twice as long as they need to be.

Writers work hard, in isolation, without achieving the mastery (or confidence) that makes writing easier.

What this all adds up to

Creating documents includes significant time waste.

Most organizations endure these common problems

Hide-and-seek messages make management and other readers work hard to extract information.

High-value, time-pressured executives expend too much brain power editing documents.

What this all adds up to

The cost of a document is the number of hours to create, review, and finalize it, multiplied by the salary of each person involved.

Most organizations endure these common problems

Documents boomerang between writers and reviewers multiple times, delaying delivery and creating stress.

Documents are often not clear and usable for the end reader, despite the human and organizational cost to create them.

What this all adds up to

Risk can result from unclear content which:

  • obscures critical info
  • slows down decisions
  • confuses and alienates employees and customers
  • creates foggy processes
  • weakens compliance and reporting

What a healthy writing culture looks like

We’ve spent a lot of time developing programs to resolve the common problems above. Through these programs, many of our clients have cut the time it takes to create documents in half. A happy side effect is that writers and reviewers are more productive and engaged in their work.

What clients say about the changes in their workplaces

These are comments from clients for whom we’ve delivered multi-part writing programs:

• Writers and reviewers find that writing is faster and easier overall.
• Our quality assessment measures show that writing quality is improving.
• Our staff are engaged and driving a plain-language culture through the organization.
Ombudsman, the Ombudsman for Banking and Services Investments

I consulted with my Executive Team for feedback on how the 2017 Wordsmith writing courses have benefited their divisions. We look forward to working with you again to further improve PSC processes and documents. I am pleased to hear our Effective Writing course is already waitlisted, which demonstrates both the value of this training and your reputation as great facilitators.

[One example comment from the executive team:]

“I saw an immediate and lasting improvement in my branch and the PSC as a whole. Products became much more conversational and concise. The biggest benefit was that it gave people a sense of permission to leave extraneous details out. It definitely reduced the amount of time spent on reviews and revisions.”

Lana Lougheed, Deputy Minister, Public Service Commission

There is greater efficiency, simply because the first drafts I am reading are better—so my time, and my staff’s time, is better used.

Wordsmith has become a one-word metaphor for better writing. Most staff in our branch participated three years ago in a two-day plain language workshop. They returned motivated and inspired, with an understanding of the writing process and practical tips they started to put into place immediately.
Director, Alberta Labour

How we change writing culture. More.

Each client builds a program, based on their needs, from these options:
 

The tool Why it’s important The results
Reviewing key documents This helps us understand your content and culture. We look for patterns and propose ways to strengthen documents. We explain what we found, typically in a short report with before-and-after examples.
Mapping your writing process Writing processes often have hidden (and not so hidden) inefficiencies. We identify cycle times, inefficiencies, and sticking points. We use what we learn to:

  • understand the world your writers and editors work in
  • suggest process changes
  • train staff to make best use of the process
Delivering pilot workshops A pilot workshop allows us to test customized materials and gather input from participants to refine the rest of the program. A pilot workshop helps to build a stronger program. More importantly, participants get excited about the program and help to shape it.
Delivering core training. More. These workshops are the central engine of change for writers across the organization. Participants receive new tools and practices. These workshops are practical and specific to your organization. Sometimes, they are also customized for different work groups. Writers always find these workshops make their jobs easier and give them renewed enthusiasm for writing.
Delivering tailored training for management. More. This gives management the same new tools and vocabulary their staff have. Without this step, new practices can’t become the norm. This ensures management knows and can champion the new approach. They can also encourage consistency.
Creating or refining templates for common documents. More. A good template saves time and creates clarity (but a poor one does the opposite).
We work with you to develop new templates or refine existing ones.
Solid templates are one of the biggest ways to cut down on time in the process. They make the writer’s job easier and give readers clearer information.
Training for specific document types—often half-day sessions Specific documents often pose unique problems that benefit from outside perspective and expertise. We give writers in-depth guidance and insight into documents they wrestle with regularly, which is often the first time they’ve received systematic training in that kind of writing. We develop short workshops on, for example, investigation reports, briefing notes, or board reporting.
Developing a style guide. More. Questions of consistency can cause a lot of trouble in documents and waste time in the process, so it’s useful to have universal guidance to refer to. We build a style guide based on your practices and preferences on common questions of format and style.
Creating a writing standard. More. Creating a writing standard can guide writers and reviewers in their work post-training.
It is a common goal for everyone to work towards and reduces subjective edits.
A standard shows staff, management, and new hires what excellent writing looks like in this organization. It typically includes both principles and examples to illustrate the principles.
Auditing documents to measure success. More. Management can use audit results to measure document quality, assess whether the training has been effective, or give writers feedback. Measuring documents is a means of quantifying success and showing you where the organization can still improve.
Training internal coaches. More. We give extra training to a small group of people who are interested in writing. These coaches help the program deepen and sustain over time by becoming in-house writing mentors. Coaches sustain the culture change after Wordsmith’s programs wrap up.