A 2004 Conference Board survey of 120 corporations in the Business Roundtable concluded that most companies take written communications into consideration when making their hiring and promotion decisions and implied that many current or prospective employees lack the requisite skills. This conclusion was reinforced by a 2006 Conference Board survey of 431 human resource professionals, which cited writing skills as one of the biggest gaps in workplace readiness.
Recent graduates also frequently commit basic grammatical errors, such as using an improper pronoun (e.g. “between you and I”) selecting the wrong homonym (e.g. “compliment versus complement”) or employing incorrect diction (e.g. “appraise versus apprise”). Not coincidentally, these kinds of errors are difficult to catch with spell-check.
We can posit several hypotheses for the deficiencies:
— Students do not read very much in their leisure time.
— They spend more time playing video games and watching TV.
— Their skills are eroded by texting and social media formats.
— Their communication habits are reinforced by peer groups.
— For some students, English is not their native language.
However, I believe the root cause of the problem is that our schools are not placing sufficient emphasis on writing and grammar. We need to change our priorities.
In particular, we should reinstate or increase our use of traditional learning methods, such as diagramming sentences, reading classic books, conducting vocabulary drills, writing essays, and preparing research papers, in addition to offering specialized courses in business communications.