Throughout my job search, one qualification that seems to be valued across the board is the ability to write well and for various purposes and audiences. When I get to this part of a job description, I move on quickly because I know that, though far from Papa Hemingway, I am a strong writer.
It always seemed to me that this requirement was in there by default. Surely college-educated individuals applying for these positions could write well enough to perform the job functions, right?
By and large, the answer to that question is ‘yes.’
It’s always somewhat disconcerting when I come across content online, especially when it’s written by top executives, that is, well, very poorly written. Even worse if it’s coming from Communications and PR professionals.
We’re not talking about the occasional typo that everyone makes or the word accidentally forgotten. We aren’t even talking about creative liberties. We’re talking about sentences running together that change ideas too often and make heavy use of fuzzy pronouns. There are more than just a few typos and forgotten words. Spellcheck was left unchecked. Basic grammar rules weren’t consulted. The list goes on.
At this point, regardless of whether I continue reading or close the page, there are two lines of thought. The first is this: I have two degrees in English and I’ve worked as a college writing tutor and high school English teacher. I’ve seen enough bad writing to know that, in many cases, the writer is quite intelligent and has a solid idea, but just can’t seem to get the organization down.
The second line of thought, though admittedly a bit more cynical, is that these sloppy writers just don’t care. This likely comes from spending months at a time teaching fifteen year olds how to construct academic papers, only to have them tell me that MS Word will fix everything. I truly fear that their attention spans aren’t long enough to learn how to write. Many don’t care until it’s too late. Try as you might to connect writing to the real world for them, they have trouble seeing beyond the weekend.
In the name of optimism, I’ll stick with the first line of thought.
At the same time, I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t experience some negative emotions as a result. When my teachers told me that I had an obligation to learn how to write, I took it very seriously, practicing different methods and techniques and learning different styles. I can write in the conversational tone of a blog post and the Standard English of an academic paper. I minored in creative writing in order to hone that craft, and I’ve written short stories, essays, poems, and one-and-a-half novels (I’m still working on the second one). I’ve learned to write concise informational and educational materials, always checking my facts and citing my sources.
I’ve learned the writing process, and it doesn’t end upon the completion of a first draft.
After all of that, I still find myself searching for work, wondering what I’m doing wrong. In moments of weakness, I ask myself how these people who require such heavy editing can find jobs that require so much writing and, in some cases, even rise to the top. I find myself feeling jaded by successful writers who really can’t write, and worse, the ones who steal from others who can (a serious problem among bloggers, especially). Do we really not value writing as much as we say we do? Is this bad writing behavior acceptable?
Your Turn: How do you feel when you come across poorly written content, especially when it’s coming from a professional? Do you think writing skills are becoming rare? I’m truly interested in hearing what you think about this topic.
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