I’m venting from having to re-write something right now, but this has really been bothering me lately. I’ve been struggling with this… and maybe my historical understanding of the state of our collective ability (as a nation of adults) to write is muddled. Is it me or are there just a lot of people who need help writing text that explains things?
I’ve been working with subject matter experts for the past 7 years to develop instructional design. I’ve been fortunate to work with a few who have a really good command over their writing and who could literally write circles around me, but lately I’ve been noticing not just among subject matter experts but among professionals in general there is a growing dearth of people who can simply write good expository.
I’m not a perfect writer, and I know that my writing is kind of like torn paper, rough around the edges, but I consider myself fortunate enough to have teachers who tried to hammer in me the importance of organizing and linking ideas and structuring writing so that someone could at least understand what I was trying to get across. I think that I wasn’t a very apt pupil, and to some extent I still struggle with this… but I have worked in the corporate environment for over six years and I have to say I’ve seen a great number of high level managers who have really abysmal writing skills. In one case, the writing was so bad everytime that manager sent out an e-mail, her employees would often huddle together in the aisle trying to decipher the cryptic and terse text to gather the gist of what she was communicating. This individual could not send out a department-wide e-mail without having her admin look over it. That’s just not right. Should someone who can’t even demonstrate an eighth grade skill in writing make that much money?
I cannot simply accept that people cannot write because it’s a God given gift and some people are blessed with it while others are not. Is it me or is this lack of writing skills growing in the adult population? Though to be honest, that manager I mentioned is from a generation or two before my own… so I guess her teachers might have missed the ball when it came to building her skills as a writer. Perhaps increased involvement in blogging will help, but I suspect that unless we take the teaching of writing far more seriously in our schools, then things won’t improve.