Friday, July 01, 2005

National Study Cites Gap in Writing Skills

A report published this month by the College Board's National Commission on Writing offers key insights into the writing skills of state employees and the value that their employers places on those skills.

The study, Writing: A Powerful Message from State Government, surveyed 49 of the 50 state human resources divisions on behalf on the National Governors Association. It published the following findings:
  • Writing skills are critical for professional state employees. All 49 respondents reported that two-thirds or more of professional employees have some responsibility for writing.
  • Writing is a basic consideration for state hiring and promotion. More than 75 percent of respondents report that they take writing into consideration in hiring and promoting professional employees. Almost 50 percent make the same claim about clerical and support staff.
  • State agencies frequently require writing samples from job applicants. More than 90 percent of respondents in states that "almost always" take writing into account also require a writing sample from prospective professional employees.
  • Poorly written applications are likely to doom candidates’ chances of employment. About 80 percent of respondents agree that poorly written materials would count against professional job applicants either "frequently" or "almost always." Six of ten say the same thing about applicants for clerical and support positions.
  • Writing is a more significant promotion consideration in state government than in the private sector. In placing a high value on employees' writing skills, state government responded at a rate of 10 percent higher than did private sector human resources officials.
  • Memos, letters, and e-mail are universal requirements in state agencies. More than half also report that policy alerts, legislative analyses, and formal and technical reports are "frequently" or "almost always" required. The volume of e-mail causes many state personnel directors to express concerns about the ease with which informal e-mail messages create serious communications problems.
  • Some 30 percent of professionals are below standard in writing, and most states provide remedial writing training or instruction. The percentage is far hhigher for administrative support and clerical staff.
  • Providing writing training costs state government about a quarter of a billion dollars annually. This training is designed as preventive action to ensure that state agencies' correspondence is purposeful and clear.
Once again, the written word takes center stage in a national study. The link to the study is
More information about the improving employee writing skills is available by contacting Philip Vassallo at