A recent survey of incoming freshman in the Cal State University system uncovered this horrifying statistic: a sizable chunk of these students were not ready for college.
Why? They can’t read or write (very well).
From an article in Higher Education: “Every year in the United States, nearly 60% of first-year college students discover that, despite being fully eligible to attend college, they are not ready for postsecondary studies. After enrolling, these students learn that they must take remedial courses in English or mathematics, which do not earn college credits. This gap between college eligibility and college readiness has attracted much attention in the last decade, yet it persists unabated.”
The baseline for many students’ writing, reading, math and science capabilities are at a grade school level of comprehension.
What’s more alarming is their lack of understanding or feelings of urgency about upping their games.
I read some guy’s blog awhile back, defending the practice of writing like a 6th grader. To paraphrase, he wrote ” Who cares? If I send you an email that says “meet me 4 lunch @2,” they know exactly what I want. Why do I have to be formal?”
When you text a friend to go to lunch, there’s no crime committed by your informality. Twitter has made the art of condensing more into less (through truncated speech and hashtags to denote mood) acceptable. But a resume? A cover letter? A professional communication? Absolutely unacceptable.
I tell my students that we care about their words. We care about their speech. We care about how they represent themselves through the written or typed word.
We are all imperfect writers, the best of us. I’m banging this out before I head to a faculty meeting. I will proof it and spellcheck it and publish it in a moment, and I’ll be damned if later today I will come back and see I garbled something, or omitted a word. This omission or goof is unacceptable.
I fix as I go, because I am a one-man band, a media empire of exactly one. At least I am trying to keep my words clean!
Words matter. Typos on your LinkedIn? Oh god no. Spelling errors on your resume? Nightmarish. Cover letters or introductory emails with grammatical blunders? Not good.
I just proofed a student’s resume a while ago. I discovered 15 typos and spelling errors, on a one-page document.
That’s a #fail.
John Scott is an instructor, online learning coordinator, and the career services manager for the School of Multimedia Communications, Academy of Art University San Francisco. His debut book, “Destination:Reinvention” is on sale now in the Amazon bookstore.