Are Writing Deficiencies Creating a Lost Generation of Business Writers?
ZANE K. QUIBLE FRANCES GRIFFIN OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY STILLWATER, OKLAHOMA
ABSTRACT. Business professionals and instructors often view writing skills as one of the most important qualifications that employees should possess. However, many business employees, including recent college graduates, have serious writing deficiencies, especially in their ability to use standard English. As a result, American businesses spend billions of dollars annually to remediate these writing deficiencies (College Board, the National Commission on Writing for America’s Families, Schools, and Colleges, 2004). In this article, the ...view middle of the document...
7 million employees than it is for the private-sector employees studied in the Commission’s previous survey of leading U.S. businesses. Still, despite the high value that state employers put on writing skills, a significant number of their employees do not meet states’ expectations. (College Board, the National Commission on Writing for America’s Families, Schools, and Colleges, 2005, p. 3)
Deficiencies in employees’ writing skills have tangible and intangible costs. In 2004, the National Commission on Writing (NCW) published the results of a study for which it had collected cost data from 64 of 120 large American corporations that were affiliated with the Business Roundtable and that employed nearly 8 million people. According to the report, American firms may spend as much as $3.1 billion annually to remediate their employees’ writing deficiencies (College Board, the National Commission on Writing for America’s Families, Schools, and Colleges, 2004). The intangible costs of employees’ deficient writing skills are (a) image degradation for both employees and employers; (b) negative impact on productivity when employees must reread, perhaps several times, poorly written
Employers have consistently ranked oral and written communication skills as among the most important, if not the most important, qualifications their employees should possess (Gray et al., 2005; Kelly & Gaedeke, 1990; McDaniel & White, 1993). Given the importance of communication skills to job success and the communication deficiencies of employees, the frustration expressed by American businesses is understandable. The following statement from the 2004 NCW report articulates the dissatisfaction of American employers: “The skills of new college graduates
Journal of Education for Business
are deplorable—across the board: spelling, grammar, sentence structure. . . . I can’t believe people come out of college now not knowing what a sentence is” (College Board, the National Commission on Writing for America’s Families, Schools, and Colleges, 2004, p. 14). The Role of Grammar Instruction in Writing Classes Educators have frequently debated how grammar is best taught. According to Doniger (2003), whether teaching grammar has a beneficial effect, no effect, or even a harmful effect on students’ writing has been a controversial topic for at least 4 decades. Historically, teachers have taught grammar using a rules-based approach, also known as traditional school grammar (Hillocks & Smith, 2003), two prominent characteristics of which are teaching parts of speech and sentence diagramming. Beginning in the 1960s, an abundance of research data showed the ineffectiveness of the rules-based approach (Braddock, Lloyd-Jones, & Schoer, 1963; Elley, Barham, Lamb, & Wyllie, 1975; Harris, 1962; Hillocks, 1986; Noguchi, 1991). According to Hillocks, school officials who require that traditional school grammar be taught are doing their students a “gross disservice” (p. 248). Over the years,...