R. Craig Hogan, a former university professor who heads an online school for business writing here, received an anguished e-mail message recently from a prospective student.
"i need help," said the message, which was devoid of punctuation. "i am writing a essay on writing i work for this company and my boss want me to help improve the workers writing skills can yall help me with some information thank you".
Hundreds of inquiries from managers and executives seeking to improve their own or their workers' writing pop into Dr. Hogan's computer in-basket each month, he says, describing a number that has surged as e-mail has replaced the phone for much workplace communication. Millions of employees must write more frequently on the job than previously. And many are making a hash of it.
"E-mail is a party to which English teachers have not been invited," Dr. Hogan said. "It has companies tearing their hair out."
I don't know. I don't think email is to blame for this. There's nothing inherent in email communication that requires writers to dismiss with grammar and punctuation, and there's no reason that the employee quoted above should have suddenly forgotten how to use capital letters (not to mention the misuse and misspelling of "y'all"). I think we certainly tolerate more grammatical errors in emails, and email's immediacy does tend to value speed over perfection of thought. But something tells me that the lack of good writing education in the K-12 system is impacting communicating issues far more than new technologies might be.
Email may be less formal, but students who are well-educated are not suddenly going to become incoherent when confronted with Microsoft Outlook.
A recent survey of 120 American corporations reached a similar conclusion. The study, by the National Commission on Writing, a panel established by the College Board, concluded that a third of employees in the nation's blue-chip companies wrote poorly and that businesses were spending as much as $3.1 billion annually on remedial training.
The problem shows up not only in e-mail but also in reports and other texts, the commission said.
Exactly. If anything, email is useful here because it allows companies to more quickly identify those who can't think straight, as evidenced by the email below:
Here is one from a systems analyst to her supervisor at a high-tech corporation based in Palo Alto, Calif.: "I updated the Status report for the four discrepancies Lennie forward us via e-mail (they in Barry file).. to make sure my logic was correct It seems we provide Murray with incorrect information ... However after verifying controls on JBL - JBL has the indicator as B ???? - I wanted to make sure with the recent changes - I processed today - before Murray make the changes again on the mainframe to 'C'."
After reading this I sure as heck wouldn't believe her "logic" was correct about anything.Posted by kswygert at December 8, 2004 11:44 AM