Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Message with a Semblance of a Sentence

Four long years ago, The New York Times published “What Corporate America Can’t Build: A Sentence” an article by Sam Dillon describing the sad state of affairs in business writing. To prove the point, Dillon relies on the now well-known study by the National Commission on Writing, which asserts that a third of employees in major US corporations write poorly and that businesses were investing as much as $3.1 billion annually on remedial training. The article cites numerous examples of disjointed phrases, misspellings, improper punctuation, and absent capitalization to support the claim of business executives and writing professors that e-mail has become the main culprit of the downfall of clear, concise, and correct writing.

Not much has changed since December 2004 to improve business writing skills; in fact, even more pressure has come into the workplace to deter staff from writing with a professional polish. Consider text messaging!

Well, we writing teachers might not win every battle, but we keep trying to win a linguistic skirmish here or there as when we can. Here are two tips as a start:
  1. Treat everything you write at work as if it might be read by your chief executive.
  2. Respect your chief executive’s need to receive clear, concise written messages.