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Today, I want to talk about an article I recently read about why students can’t write. It was something I found pretty fascinating for a couple of reasons. One, it’s not just students. The writing problem has definitely bled over into the business world. It really brought me back to my school days around how I was taught to write through elementary school, middle school, high school, and even into college. And if you think back, especially folks maybe around my age or so, think back to how we were taught to write in school—5 sentences per paragraph and multiple paragraphs to convey your point. And as you progressed into middle school and high school, it kept getting longer and longer. Often times in high school and college, the assignments really were geared around word count and page length. I know a number of times I would write a paper and then get to the end and finish up my last point, be excited, and then realize I was only at nine pages when the instructor wanted a ten-page paper. So, what did I do? Naturally, being a great student, I went and did some more research, found some more scholarly articles that I could site in my paper and got it up to the ten pages, right? No. I would like to be able to say that, but that wasn’t the case. What I would do is go right into the settings and tweak that twelve-point Time New Roman font to 12.1, my double-spaced paper went to 2.1 spacing and those margins squeaked in ever so slightly. You know, I would get to right around that ten-page mark and if I needed a little bit extra, I would go back through the paper and find any contractions I used and spread it out into two different words or I’d use some phrases that were a little bit longer then what it needed to be to get the point across and I would squeak it out because that’s what the professor wanted. They wanted ten pages, so that’s what I gave them. It didn't matter if I was able to get my point across in five pages or not, I had to give them ten.
If you think about today, in the business world, I’m sure all of us have been on the receiving end of an email where your thumb ends up cramping because you’re scrolling so much or something comes through like a proposal or a new policy document and it is just so, so long. You give up before you even get to the point around what you’re supposed to do. We see that on a regular basis with our clients. They’re coming to us asking how we can help their employees write more concisely, be more effective, and get their point across. And so, like I said, when I saw that article it really jumped out to me. One, having young kids in school when they’re going through the process of really how to write essays and learning those writing skills and then just with my day-to-day hearing from clients around how this is impacting their operations because people cannot communicate effectively.
I would love to hear from you. What are some of your experiences as either on the receiving end of written communication or just as a writer, yourself. Are you finding yourself making your posts, making your emails, making proposal just too long because deep down engrained in your mind we’ve been trained that it is quantity over quality? When really, it needs to be the reverse of that. Focus on the quality, get your point across effectively and concisely, and help move the receiver of your communication to action. I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment down below!