The Problem of Lacking Effective Written Communication Skills

For years, I have heard many colleagues expressing their concerns of students’ poor written communication skills. Indeed, lack of writing proficiency does not seem to be an isolated problem for one particular academic program or college.

According to Dianna Middleton’s report on Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, Corporate America is complaining that business-school graduates could be “data-savvy” but may not be able to communication effectively. Some writing deficiency examples include: using complicated words over simple ones, rarely getting to the point, failing to adapt the writing for multiple audiences, and writing incomplete sentences. As a result, consulting firms like Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. do not allow new hires from working on any written proposal independently until they are ready.

Many business schools are making efforts to help students improve their writing skills. The Wharton school at University of Pennsylvania is planning to double the communication coursework to 12 classes starting in 2012. University of Rochester created two writing coaches positions. Northeastern University requires that student papers be graded by both professor and writing coach.

Students, on the other hand, do not seem to pay enough attention to this problem. Cornell University, for example, offers an elective writing class and an elective oral communication class in its executive M.B.A. program but found inadequate interest of signing up for the writing class.

It may seem that students themselves have not noticed how serious this problem is. Why will students struggle in writing? What can high schools, universities, and Corporate America do to improve students’ writing proficiency? In the world of “constant digital communication,” will text-messaging and tweeting replace formal written communications for good? What are your thoughts?

References:
Middleton, D. (2011, March 3). Students struggle for words: Business schools put more emphasis on writing amid employer complaints. The Wall Street Journal, B8. Also available online via http://on.wsj.com/f1wExT  
Picture was downloaded from http://mediarelations09.blogspot.com/  

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