The statistics are quite sobering: a high percentage of college graduates have subpar writing skills, according to those who hire them. Full disclosure: I’m a Baby Boomer (at the tail end!), so when I went to school writing was a big deal. Given what I hear from my teenage niece and nephew, it’s still part of the curriculum, but for some reason students don’t seem to think it matters as much as it once did.
I see evidence of poor writing everywhere—from company websites to billboards to news crawls at the bottom of a TV screen. Given my profession as a writer/editor, that should not be a big surprise; my antenna is probably more attuned to such faux pas than the “common man.” However, I’m far from alone in noticing and being mildly disgusted by the rampant botching of the English language.
I can only speculate that those much younger than me, especially the Millennials—weaned on electronic communications—don’t see why anyone should care about basic grammar mistakes. You’re or your; its or it’s; their, there or they’re—as long as the message gets across, who cares about the details?
It’s enough to make an English teacher shudder. (And me too!)
The fact is, poorly written copy can have a domino effect. When those who read it are unimpressed, that can lead to a number of bad outcomes: sales aren’t made, projects aren’t won, promotions don’t occur and jobs are lost.
Even more horrifying than bad writing—at least to me—is the fact that so much copy is seemingly not proofed before being published. Many people rely on spellcheck as a proofreader, but that’s only a partial solution; a computer program will not tell you that you used “pubic” rather than “public,” for instance. (I recently corrected that typo in some website copy.)
For my entire career, I’ve earned a nice living because I have a better grasp of the English language than most other people. I have a way with words. I don’t anticipate demand for my services will plateau or decline anytime soon; in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see writing and editing become hot professions—due to the fact that so many people are deficient in those areas.
English is not an easy language to master, even for native speakers. For that reason, those who either have innate talent or have worked hard to hone their writing abilities should never have to sing for their supper, so to speak. Their skills are in high demand because communicating via the written word is something that will never go out of style. The delivery method may change, but the need to create compelling copy is here to stay.
Writer/editor Adrienne Moch is passionate about words. Her focus is ensuring copy isn’t just competent, but compelling. Adrienne uses the skills she developed as a journalist, corporate communicator, and PR professional to provide writing and editing support to business and author clients. To learn more and sign up for her monthly newsletter, The Write Stuff, please visit http://www.adriennemoch.com.