A Workforce That Needs “Writing Repair”

There are two key factors that explain why today’s workforce needs writing repair services.

The Growing Diversity of our Population:
Our workforce includes ever-growing numbers of people born and educated outside the United States. Many have studied English in their home countries, or take classes once they arrive. They may speak and read it well enough to get along. But speaking English and writing English are two different things. Writing presents a greater challenge, especially in the workplace where correspon- dence and documents must be accurate, clear, and professional.

This is an obvious factor, but there is another, more troublesome one.

Failure of the educational system:
I was raised in a different era. I went to school in New York City at a time when its public schools were among the best in the country. Class time was devoted to developing basic skills, and learning a body of information (literature, history, geography, science, math, and a foreign language) that was considered the minimum core knowledge needed for a bright future. Art, music, and sports were all available for those who were interested. But there was no choice about studying the required subjects. Every class included lots of reading and writing.

Things are very different now. The presence of remedial courses at most colleges these days is evidence of the failure of elementary and secondary schools to consistently turn out students with adequate language skills. Last December, NBC News reported that over 30% of college graduates do not meet basic literacy standards. So even after taking remedial courses and graduating from college, about one third of students still lack acceptable skills to bring to the workplace.

I will never forget the following incident that occurred some years back. I was on a coffee break and went to the employee lounge to enjoy a chapter of the novel I was reading. It happened to be a rather long book, about 1400 pages. One of the young clerks saw me and asked how I could read such a thick book. “I want to find out what’s going to happen,” I told her. “Gee,” she said, a little sheepishly, “I never read a whole book.” Clearly, all reading was a chore for her. I didn’t have to see a sample of her writing to know what it would be like.

Most people know their limitations and welcome assistance. Some companies arrange for writing workshops taught by consultants over a one or two day period. People can pick up a few tips regarding common mistakes and grammatical rules. But it’s usually too little, too late. It is difficult to change ingrained language patterns. So these remedies have only limited effect, and don’t provide long term support. That’s why I advocate a continuing approach, like my writing repair service, which you can read more about in the first post on this blog, Writing Repair – Because Bad Writing Costs You Money.

When companies ignore these realities or underestimate the negative impact that poor writing has on customers, suppliers, and even their own employees, they make a serious mistake.


Could your business use my services?

Visit my website at www.jlrco.com or e-mail me at rose@jlrco.com.


  1. […] I want to repeat something I talked about in one of my earlier posts, “A Workforce that Need Writing Repair.” Employers today are dealing with an employee pool that has serious problems with writing skills. Two key factors contribute greatly to this: the decline in the educational system, and the fact that so many people come to their jobs with a language background other than English. Whatever the reason, many people simply don’t write well. If they want to get the most out of the skills and experience their employees do have, employers need to address the issue of poor writing. The question is: what’s the best way for a business to do that? […]

  2. prove of good writing skill, should be a pre-reqisite, before employment.

  3. Hi Lilly: I agree that good skills should be a prerequisite, but the reality is that many people just don’t have good writing skills, even when they are quite skilled at something else. They are still valuable to their employers, but they need support in the area of writing. That’s the situation, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

    There was a recent survey of 431 human resources officials done by an organization called “The Partnership for 21st Century Skills.” Their findings were that about 72% of high school graduates are deficient in basic English writing skills, including grammar and spelling. The survey participants also cited poor writing skills among 2-year and 4-year college graduates. Those people are out in the workforce, and employers need to take steps to address the problem. So I’m offering one way of doing that.

  4. I was appalled when I taught a journalism course at San Francisco State University to see just how badly seniors were writing. I edited an independent journalism review put out in one room there with a single phone line, and a class was provided for us (if people signed up for it. Few did. Of those who did, their writing assignments were usually short pieces that were to be published in the review: a newspaper merger, a prominent editor retires, the only local paper to support Aregentina’s grab of the Falklands, and why. Their work was so bad I was cast into a state of despair. These are the next generations of newspaper and magazine and business and technical writers. It was ghastly.

  5. Shannon: Thanks for your comment. I understand your frustration. Unless schools, from Kindergarten on up, focus seriously on the basic skills, they will continue to turn out graduates whose education is a house with no foundation. You’re seeing the result in your students.

  6. […] A Workforce That Needs Writing Repair (In the international employee pool, business owners can help keep workers afloat) […]

  7. One only has to browse job classifieds to see just how badly writing has deteriorated. I read so many of them every day and more than half are full of very obvious mistakes. Not only are workforce writing skills slipping, but so are their professional manners.

    Great blog, I’ll be stopping by often 🙂


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