The Value of Good Writing
Good writing can only reflect well on a company and its employees. But it is a laborious process and a most unappreciated one at that. We need our wordsmiths to tell our stories. Sometimes I feel my clients truly believe that through some sophisticated wizardry, words, without much input from them, will magically morph into paragraphs and form the beginning of a new printed or Internet marketing campaign. All they have to do is jot down a few pointers (bullet points, naturally) or verbally communicate a shortened synopsis to me, and in some abracadabra fashion every written detail will systemically come together in cyber space (or in their company literature).
Similar comments can also be applied to our emails where acceptable rules of grammar are either ignored or simply do not exist. Some excuses might be made that emails do not really count since they are only emails. Whatever defense or alibi for this ubiquitous mental collapse, emails are still a form of expression and personally, I much prefer sentences that contain words and structures with which I am familiar.
When I see short letters with no perceptible sentences, but rather basic utterances, such as: “got your email, will read in day or maybe, possibly lunch sometime” I have to wonder about the state of mind of the scrivener at the other end. To conceal my own angst I have sometimes joked about these mysterious messages and suggested that possibly next time these senders put a bit more effort into the writing. As of this writing, no new stones have been turned.
Nor have any boulders or smaller rocks been pushed aside where I work which is in the area of communication. As with the Internet and our email exercises, I have little hope that any true change toward grammatical correctness in business will happen anytime shortly. On this particular matter I see more of a slide than a progression and am deeply convinced that I could discuss quality writing and advertising on a regular basis and not make a dent in most clients’ understanding.
Much of the reason for this, without delving too far, is the lack of exposure to any real routine, creative marketing. In other words, there is usually no solid precedent for clever regional marketing or proper writing for the client to imitate. Nor is there usually any concerted push from the business market or owners themselves to do the smart thing where their advertising is concerned. They already feel themselves in safe company since everyone else’s marketing is either flat or outright terrible. When a new idea or clever promotional concept, however, does hit the airwaves, it is still not enough to persuade most others (appreciated though this effort might be) to join the bandwagon. The mental and physical energies simply are not there.
As indifferent and out-of-touch as many small to medium size companies are to advertising, this is not surprising since we are not encouraged to be more scholarly, either. We have allowed our academic standards, or whatever is left of them, to the care of politicians and bureaucrats (astounding as that is!) for the last 60 years and have removed ourselves, (though not voluntarily) from any permanent oversight as to how our children are taught. As a result, lax attitudes have spread in the elementary levels and throughout the entire educational system, including the business classrooms where any hint of strong writing is only given scant mention. Little do our MBA’s realize that in the absence of this formative tool–strong, corrective writing– many after graduation, and in the world of business, will continue to do what they have always done, which is typically very little by way of improved communications.
Admittedly it is difficult to practice tolerance for something that is falling further away from far too many of us. A few years back when I was a university instructor I noted that unless qualified teachers put the full weight of their profession towards upholding the strictest standards of education, we would remain an illiterate country among other third world nations. It seems I was not too far off the mark.
A current report based on a book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, confirms these assumptions and points out that after two years of college, 45% of students learn little to nothing; after four years, 36% of students learn almost nothing. Startling as these figures are, I was not surprised by the results. Given the catastrophic state of schools and our love affair with gadgetries and mindless amusements over hard study, how could the conclusions be otherwise?
It may not be fair to generalize, and even harder to substantiate, but an academically enlightened culture that is eluding this generation, could be linked to the way we communicate–or not communicate. We have become proficient and comfortable with Twitter, Facebook and other neighborhood Internet outlets. But our comprehension beyond the superficial, gossip-driven rumor mills and other mind- numbing channels are just that–mind numbing. If only a few wish to say it, let me again raise the point. A society of grown-ups who prefer to hide behind iPhones and not return phone calls, a generation somewhat intimidated with the written word, a culture–regardless of race, sex or age–that derives inordinate hours of pleasure starring at their hand-held phone-camera-Internet gizmo in traffic, on walkways, at physical fitness centers and, of course, at work, is a society that should start returning to basics, like writing and reading.
We have been gradually moving away from the hard strain and effort that true education demands. We clamor for novelty and invention through pictures and sound and are amenable to other approaches that will make reading and writing less taxing. So we put aside the books and listen to someone else’s voice on tape. We remove the pen and paper and substitute the computer where we can write and delete at a frenzied pace, and expect miraculous results. It is certainly less challenging to move a mouse, stroke a few keys and defer to check spelling than to confront our thoughts directly. It has taken us almost no time to master the computer. But in ramping up our desire for speed and an endless barrage of scribbled communications, we have short-circuited true learning. The alternative, for the moment, seems to be a temporary fix and not a solution to putting us back on the path that only a sound education can provide.
The article, from which this excerpt has been taken, can be viewed in its entirety by writing or calling GLS Design & Marketing.