Resources for business and technical writing

Effective Writing for Business and Technology

Technical and business professionals spend a lot of time reading and writing, and yet few have much formal training in this area. A survey from 1986-1998 found that engineers spent an average of 280 hours a year reading and 221 hours a year writing. That’s about 25% of their time. These averages are even higher for scientific and medical professionals.

Effective Writing for Business and Technology micro-site

Improving the effectiveness of our business writing will, as a minimum, result in more productive reading and writing efforts. Even more significant can be the consequences of poorly written material. For example:

  • An analysis of the NASA documents conducted by Dorothy A. Windsor showed a “history of miscommunication” as one of the root causes of the Challenger disaster in 1986.
  • A world-class oil company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars developing a new pesticide, only to discover that one of their own technicians had worked this out 5 years earlier. The reason this wasn’t realized sooner was because the report the technician wrote was so poorly written, that no one finished reading it.
  • Information released by the US Federal Government revealed that a nuclear-power plant supervisor ordered “ten foot long lengths” of radioactive material. But instead of getting the ten-foot units need, the plant received ten one-foot long rods.

The list goes on, and I’m sure many of us could add our own personal experiences to the list. Often avoiding these types of problems is just a matter of knowing and applying some well defined skills; the skills of effective writing.