Thursday, January 8, 2015

Why we have become lazy writers

While we can now communicate in the fastest, easiest and most convenient ways possible using a myriad of devices anywhere, anytime to anyone in any corner of the connected world, I believe we are losing our ability to communicate.

Because communication is now ubiquitous, convenient, easy and instant, we have taken our writing skills for granted. Take emails. I believe that most of us are so comfortable with communicating with this medium that we use it like we are conversing with a good friend. Facebook and Twitter reinforce this mindset because we know our posts and tweets are reaching friends and relatives.

Jeff Bezos
The result is a quantum disconnect fueled by snippets of information that are most times incomprehensible.

When you a sitting face to face and having a conversation, the context of what you are talking about is always top of mind. But when you converse in the same manner with email the recipient may not read email for hours or days. The context gets lost. Complicate that with several acronyms in the copy and you might as well call a cryptologist.

We tend to write emails as if the recipient is sitting across from us leaving out the content because we believe the recipient will know what we are writing about. We have become lazy writers.

And I’m not alone in my view.

Walter Chen in his blog, IDoneThis.com, wrote about Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon who values writing over talking to such an extreme that in Amazon senior executive meetings, “before any conversation or discussion begins, everyone sits for 30 minutes in total silence, carefully reading six-page printed memos.”

Andy Grove
Writing out full sentences enforces clear thinking, but more than that, it’s a compelling method to drive memo authors to write in a narrative structure that reinforces a distinctly Amazon way of thinking—its obsession with the customer. In every memo that could potentially address any issue in the company, the memo author must answer the question: “What’s in it for the customer, the company, and how does the answer to the question enable innovation on behalf of the customer?”

Like Bezos, Andy Grove of Intel finds value in the process of writing, but he doesn't consider reading important. Grove considers the process to force yourself “to be more precise than [you] might be verbally”, creating “an archive of data” that can “help to validate ad hoc inputs” and to reflect with precision on your thought and approach. 

Writing, according to Grove, is a “safety-net” for your thought process that you should always be doing to “catch … anything you may have missed.”
So what is the solution? Write more, write casually, but include all the pertinent facts and pretend your reader knows practically nothing about what you are writing about.