Monday, September 12, 2011

Now More Then Ever

If the title of this post caught your eye as “incorrect” – congratulations!

One of our new challenges in the business school is to convince students that writing still matters. In a world where text messages and “tweeting” make the ability to communicate with new combinations of symbols an asset, we can understand how the ability to write properly could degenerate. I’m no English professor, but I do strive to write properly. By “properly” I mean I try to punctuate sentences correctly, to use the correct word, and to write clearly and concisely.

Lately, students often object when I do not give them full credit on assignments due to writing errors. Over the last few years, the most common error I see is the misuse of “then.” I don’t know why “then” is used so frequently where “than” is the correct word to use.

All professors have their favorite examples of mistakes and I would not be surprised to find a web site devoted to such errors. Such errors can provide great comic relief, but is that what you want your writing known for in a business setting?

A Newspaper Ad
I remind students that they may be known by their written work well before they are known “personally” in a large organization. The memoranda they write could be read by anyone. That usually does not get their attention until I remind them how easy it is to forward an email.

I ask them, “If someone only knew you by your written work, would they want you in front of an important client? Would they feel you will pay attention to detail and manage an important project well?”

I know some of my colleagues do not want to be in the position of grading grammar, but to the extent we can elevate our students’ written work, we will graduate a better business student. Writing skills are important – perhaps now more than ever!

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