“Could that not have been an email instead of a meeting?”

Usually, but sometimes you need to convene. And before you do, sending attendees not just an outline but a crisp summary of the content lets everyone know what to expect and what is expected.

Writing tightens your mental agenda and can make meetings shorter and more productive, especially when you can get to business without the usual ten minutes of throat-clearing and context setting. Better still, it might make you realize you don’t need to meet and that a memo will do.

But good writing does more than shorten meetings.

The Chicago-based software company 37 Signals, makers of Basecamp, hires proficient writers for all positions, including design and programming. It’s important for coders, for example, to explain to others what they are doing, and sometimes the writing process helps them work through sticky problems.

Making things easy to understand is especially important for dispersed or Slack-heavy organizations. And, when properly managed, good writing contributes to a repository of legacy documentation for others to reference long after a project is finished.

When considering multiple job applicants, skills mostly equal, 37 Signals hires the best writer. They assess writing quality in cover letters and paid trial-work projects that require candidates to write a summary of what they accomplished and how they process information and make decisions. These small tests uncover whether someone communicates simply and directly or comes loaded with senseless jargon.

As co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson said in a recent episode of the company’s Rework podcast, “Writing is the magic filter for taking out bullshit.”

Need help creating ridiculously clear materials for your next meeting or conference? Let’s talk.