Bad writing

Apr 23, 2018

Things have gotten better in the last 10 years – probably due to the popularity of texting and emailing – but architects and engineers still have a big problem with bad writing.

An old friend of mine stopped by this weekend with his latest book. The guy has authored more than 20 books and knows his stuff. We got to talking about the writing problem that exists today. Coincidentally, this week we’ll be recording the third of our new Z-Learning programs (think “e-learning”), and it will be on this subject.

If there is one overarching theme to the whole thing, it is that people don’t write like they talk. For some reason, many people feel they have to write in Olde English. It’s not at all uncommon to see these types of phrases: “As per your request,” or “Enclosed herewith,” or “Per the above-referenced project number XYZ.” About 40 percent of people working in firms think that’s OK. It isn’t! No one speaks like that. It’s completely convoluted.

Then there are those who say, “At the end of the day” so often it will drive you mad. We once had a fellow in our employ who wrote an email to our BOD and he had four paragraphs in a row, each one starting with, “At the end of the day.” There is little more annoying than that!

Big words when small words will do is another problem. “Utilize” when “use” is shorter. “Multi-disciplinary” when “multi-discipline” works better. And so on.

Also, spelling and punctuation errors can make you look dumb. Putting apostrophes on plurals, i.e., “car’s” is a huge problem today. “Your welcome” versus “You’re welcome” is super-common. There are many others. Misuse of words or phrases such as, “I could care less” versus “I couldn’t care less,” or “Me either” versus “Me neither,” are super-common and all point out the writer’s ignorance. Not good.

The point is, people judge you and your firm based on the quality of your and your employees’ writing. Like it or not, that’s the reality of it. So tighten it up – now. Look classy compared to everyone else. It can’t hurt!

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.