October 10, 2004

I write, therefore I am ... employable?

I've almost blogged about this survey a couple of times in the last few weeks, which stresses the importance of writing skills in the professional workplace, and the lack of those skills among many employees. I haven't written about this up to now because neither conclusion is particularly surprising.

But this silly little column, which offers some tips for improving job-related writing, compels me to say something. Recommendations include relying on lists, keeping paragraphs to a maximum of two lines, and leaving out background information. The columnist does say that her tips are most relevant for e-mail and presentation writing. Still, taken as a whole, her suggestions comprise a near-perfect method for reducing complex thinking about complex issues to easily digestible, Powerpoint-friendly soundbites. This isn't always a bad thing, but taken as a way to improve writing overall, it depresses me. Obviously, work-related writing is not the appropriate venue to express your own character and style. But eliminating the writer's voice completely ends up making this stuff even more unbearable to read or sit through.

Some of her advice is actually good, such as the recommendation that any "finished" piece of writing should have its length reduced by 10% before it's ready for prime time -- there's a pointer I should take to heart and exercise more often. But why reinvent the wheel? There's nothing worthwhile here that Strunk and White didn't already say more eloquently. I think I'll stick with them.

Posted by at October 10, 2004 1:46 PM