In my post how to pass as a 30-something when you’re really not I list "write good" as one criteria. Yes, my tongue is stuck in my cheek on this as grammatically the right phrase is "write well." But I’m trying to make a point, a point that has grown in importance as I’ve spent more and more time dealing with college-educated professionals. I’ve been lucky and fortunate to have spent as much time as I have interacting with very very smart, savvy, and successful business people. When you see some of these people think through complex issues, you just want to pick at their brain to steal some of their intellect. Why is it, then, that the writing skills of these same entrepreneurs are below average to the point of plain unprofessionalism?
Since the "market" allows it. No one raises an eyebrow when smart CEOs write "Lets go see people that are cool. None of these are adequate." Come on, let’s not be so uptight, so there’s a small error, no big deal. Right? Wrong. I used to think that but when I started seeing what I would consider embarrassing grammar and writing errors time and time again, I thought less and less of the person. If one can’t communicate what one’s saying in a professional and correct way then that person’s stock drops big time in my books. In some cases, mixing up grammar or spelling changes the meaning of the sentence in a meaningful way. (Complimentary versus complementary is a recent example I’ve had of that.)
How do poor writers still make it up the totem poll? Someone else writes for them and they edit. They only write in PowerPoint presentations to avoid full paragraphs. It’s easy to tell in the first few communications with someone whether or not this is person who takes his/her writing seriously. Do you they write in bullet points primarily? Sentences that end with "…" all the time? Excessive use of hyphens so as to avoid thinking about where commas should go? I’m not saying people need to write like Toni Morrison all the time – the simpler the better. But I do believe PowerPoint has sucked all the motivation out of stringing together several sentences to achieve an effect on a reader that will be influential.
I’m probably a bit harsh or over the top. After all, I have to slave my way through grammar quizzes and have been lucky enough to have been issued by my school The Little English Handbook. Nonetheless, the writing level amongst successful, thriving, entrepreneurs and businesspeople is surprising. It is my sincere hope that the market will demand more careful, professional writing habits to make everyone’s job at discerning meaning from emails, memos, and letters a wee-bit easier.