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Business Writing Today - Are good writing skills still necessary?

Updated on June 24, 2015

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Writing Skills in the Workplace

Picture this: you have spent the majority of your childhood texting, tweeting, facebooking, completely disregarding all of the grammar rules that your English teachers tried to teach you. You graduate high school with an average GPA and go on to college or into the job market with your poor writing skills. If you’re in college you will, one way or the other, learn how to write no matter what field you enroll in, that’s a given. But if you go to the job market with no writing skills or lack of, you will suffer.

Writing skills are still extremely necessary. In fact, research shows that two-thirds of salaried jobs requires writing. In 2004 the College Board did a survey composed of 64 human resource directors in corporations associated with the Business Roundtable. Here is what the executives had to say: “writing is a “threshold skill” for both employment and promotion; people who cannot write and communicate clearly will not be hired and are unlikely to last long enough to be considered for promotion; more than half of all responding companies report that they “frequently” or “almost always” produce technical reports (59 %), formal reports (62 %), and memos and correspondence (70 %).”

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If you are in the workforce already then you already know how much writing you do and how necessary it is to be able to know how to write. Unfortunately, the lack of writing skills has become a trend. It has gotten so bad that “based on the survey responses (The College Board survey I addressed in the previous paragraph), it appears that remedying deficiencies in writing may cost American firms as much as $3.1 billion annually.”

I’m a writer so I obviously hold writing as a high standard. Even in the most basic communication I make sure that I have been able to transmit the message I want in a professional, clear and concise manner. Yes I abbreviate words too, I’m part of the BRB, WTF, LMFAO, LOL, generation too I just don’t allow that type of writing to transfer over to the way I communicate with my coworkers or executives at work.

Just imagine you're looking for information online and you find this article. Now imagine the first paragraph reads like this:

“Picture this: uve spent the majority of ur childhood textin, tweetin, facebooking, completely disregarding all the grammar rules ur english teachers tried 2 teach u. U graduate high school with an average GPA and go on 2 college or in2 the job market wit ur poor writing skills. If ure in college ull one way or the other learn how 2 write no matter what field u enroll in thats a given. But if you go 2 the job market with no writing skills ull suffer.”

I commend you if you read all that, I cringed writing it. Now would you take this article seriously? You would, more than likely, stop reading after the third word and move on to something else. Now imagine how your customers or coworkers feel when they read your emails, texts, memos, letters, benefits package, marketing materials, product descriptions, ads, banners, announcements, etc.. The list of things in which writing skills matter goes on and on and on. Imagine how an employer would feel if they read your resume and cover letter and found all of these abbreviations and lack of punctuation, do you think you would get hired?

Source

1995

Now let's take this back a bit. You would think that if all this research exists since the 90's that people would have anticipated it would only get worse and would try to prepare... Right? Well apparently not because the industry is suffering now more than ever.

Back in 1995 Michael Egan wrote an article for the Journal for Quality and Participation titled "Total quality business writing."

In this article Michael said "A 1991 survey of top managers in two hundred Fortune 1000 companies showed that managers felt more than a third of their colleagues' reports, letter and memos were "unclear, poorly written or confusing." Forty-one percent were considered weak, Only three percent were excellent."

That is absolutely crazy! We're talking about executives and people in leadership roles. If you still can't see why the lack of writing skills is a problem then think about the Challenger accident; analysis of NASA documents showed "a history of miscommunication" as one of the root causes of the Challenger disaster in January, 1986. (Reference also taken from Michael Egan's article)

A world-class oil company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars developing a new pesticide. Then red-faced officials discovered that the formula had been worked out five years before -- by one of the company's own technicians! His report was so opaquely written no one had finished reading it. (Reference taken from www.businesswriting.biz)

Last few words of wisdom.

Regardless of the field you are in proper writing skills will always be necessary. It's a good representation of the company you work for and it puts you in a better position when it comes to promotions or getting a new job.

Texting and social media will always be there but the difference between you and the next person in this economy will be determined by the amount of effort you put in your preparation. If you don't care about how your writing translates then the employers won't care about you or your qualifications.

Happy Writing!

And here's a funny!

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