I teach public relations courses as a university adjunct faculty member. Right now I’m grading papers written by students in Employee Communications. The good news is that the principles of effective employee communications seem to have sunk in. Sadly, I’m taking points off for poorly written sentences, spelling and punctuation errors and grammatical mistakes.
It pains me to see how few students — especially those in their third and fourth years of university studies — have mastered the most fundamental skill to our profession. Here are three simple reasons good writing matters:
- Writing is essential to any job in the communication professions. A communicator not knowing how to write well is like an accountant not understanding the most basic mathematical functions or a carpenter not knowing what tool to use for the job.
- Writing well requires discipline, and discipline is important in any job. I’m dating myself with this story, but when I was a mass communications student, word processors and computers were just coming into wide use. If we turned in a story in class and the professor found an error — any error, no matter how small — we were sent back to type it all over again on the typewriter. That kind of rigid discipline has made me a better writer and communicator.
- Poor writing is often the result of carelessness. As an instructor, many of the mistakes I find could have been caught if the student had only proofread their work before sending it to me. As a communicator, if my client gets work riddled with errors, it calls into question the quality of the rest of my work.
I have heard the arguments that language is constantly evolving. I get that. However, the basic rules are there for good reasons. Grammar, spelling, punctuation and syntax are necessary for a writer’s words to be clearly understood by the reader. I understand there are times when we can bend or even break the rules. For effect. Like this. However, most of the time — when writing a recommended communication response to an issue, for example, or when writing a press release — we must follow the rules. Doing so demonstrates a command of the language and makes our writing clear and crisp.
Some of my students might not like how many points I take off their otherwise fine papers, but I’ll bet they’re less likely to make those mistakes again.
Filed under: Communication Jobs, Employee Communication, Writing Skills | Tagged: communication jobs, communication skills, evolution of language, grammar, grammatical errors, mass communications, punctuation, spelling, spelling errors, syntax, university students, writing clearly, writing skills, writing well |