Thursday, March 24

Writing For Your Life

According to a recent survey by the College Board's National Commission on Writing, 33 percent of employees do not meet the minimum writing requirements for the jobs they currently hold. While the report falls short in suggesting that Americans write worse, it is apparent that the demand for better writing skills has spread to jobs that once were filled by employees who didn't have to know a verb from a noun, including electricians, engineers, and foremen.

"There's no way to say that writing has gotten worse," said Susan Traiman, director of the education initiative for the Business Roundtable, told The Associated Press (AP). "The demand has gotten greater."

Part of the reason is attributed to computers. Approximately 66 percent of all salaried workers in large U.S. companies have jobs that require at least some writing. Among the top writing problems for most employees: accuracy, clarity, spelling, punctuation, grammar, and conciseness.

The demand for writers continues to plague the communication industry as well. The frequency of errors has become so common that even American Idol was prompted to rerun an entire show after phone numbers were incorrectly displayed during the original show.

"Businesses are really crying out. They need to have people who write better," College Board President Gaston Caperton told the AP.

While more than half of all companies surveyed now say they assess writing skills when they make hiring and promotion decisions, most seem to settle for people with only adequate skills. The survey was done with 64 companies across six industries representing 4 million employees: mining; construction; manufacturing; transportation and utilities; services and finance; and insurance and real estate.


Rich on 3/27/05, 9:59 AM said...

According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the errors are already catching up with with newspapers and newsrooms: 73 percent of adults have become more skeptical about news accuracy.

In the newsroom, 38 percent blame deadline pressure for factual errors in stories. A much higher percentage, 66 percent, attribute errors to carelessness, inexperience or sloppiness.

Accuracy, and news credibility, is being sacrificed for speed. And you are not alone in noticing. Sigh.

Tracy on 4/11/05, 6:36 PM said...

As an English teacher, this was an especially interesting post. I wonder if you'd mind if I shared it with my classes?

It's always nice to have real-life proof about the importance of being able to communicate.

Rich on 4/12/05, 7:24 AM said...

Please feel free to share this or any future post with your class. I've found that surveys like this have a real impact on students, encouraging them to place more emphasis on writing skills.

Depending on the grade you teach, perhaps you'll even save me from teaching basic English to college students and interns. One example I frequently share involved an intern who worked with us while pursuing his communication degree. When I asked him what was wrong with the sentence he wrote, he read it out loud and shrugged. There was no 'subject' in the sentence.


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