by Gary Beach

Lack of Good Writers Costing the U.S. Big Money

Aug 15, 20052 mins

Frequently in this column, I have voiced my concerns about the disappearing science, technology, engineering and math skills that the American workforce needs in order to be productive in the 21st-century economy.

A 2004 report from the National Commission on Writing suggests that writing skills should be added to that critical skill set. The commission, which reports annually to Congress on the proficiency of writing in America, partnered with Business Roundtable to produce its second report, “Writing: A Ticket to Work…Or a Ticket Out,” about a year ago, and it has just released a similar report for the government.

The findings of these reports are as follows:

  • Good writing is a threshold skill for employment and promotion.
  • Poor writers most likely will not be hired.
  • Two-thirds of salaried workers in large American companies have some writing responsibility.
  • Writing deficiencies cost American business as much as $3.1 billion annually.

What is “writing” in terms of 21st-century American business? Formal reports, memos, letters and technical reports would come to the top of most lists. But in this electronics-dominated world of ours, the commission reports rank e-mail as the number-one form of writing in America, followed closely by presentation/ visual writing.

One respondent to the “Ticket to Work” report wrote, “We’re inundated daily with e-mail, and people have to learn to think in ’core points.’ We need presentation skills on the same basis. Most of us have experienced ’death by PowerPoint.’” And often, I find, by the dreaded “reply to all” button!

What’s the writing proficiency of the American workforce? Approximately 34 percent of businesses claim that less than a third of their current workforce has adequate writing skills.

If you would like a copy of the report, write me a short note!

Gary Beach, Publisher