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BUSINESS AS USUAL in the college-writing classroom is broken.
Don't we need to fix it?
In college writing and literature classes, Cameron got nothing but "A+"s. But after Cameron graduated and started work, I got an email complaining that The Boss didn't like Cameron's writing. Why didn't this surprise me...even a little?
As a writing consultant, having worked for a few decades with new graduates in many different workplaces, I've watched these self-assured, new employees--most of whom are fresh from top grad schools--discover that their strong and well-honed academic writing skills aren't so much appreciated in the workplace.
I'm not the first one to notice this.
In fact, magazines like Forbes and inc., and lots of others in the U.S.A. and around the world, routinely run articles reminding readers how important "writing skills" are or asserting, on the one hand, how important writing still is in the 21st-century workplace, and, on the other hand, grumbling about how new employees just out of college/grad school lack strong writing skills.
Okay, let's just admit it, there's a WRITING GAP between college and work.
Instead of echoing all that's been said about this, let me say something new and insightful.
The main reason why there's a WRITING GAP between college and work is that in college we're rarely if ever asked to write to a REAL person who REALLY needs the REAL information to make a REAL decision.
This shortcoming makes a world of difference. It's the difference between the academic world and the work world.
At work, you are almost always writing for a REAL person or a REAL group of people who need the REAL information. If they don't need it, they delete it. If they do need it, they grudgingly allot some moments of their precious time and energy trying to extract the useful information from the writing in question. And, at the same time, thousands of other bits of information are vying for this reader's attention.
But these new employees are still writing to their teachers--who got paid to read (and praise and comment on) their every word instead of writing to the REAL reader who'd rather hit delete.
My solution for the WRITING GAP is to give students (from high school onward--even from elementary school onward) REAL writing assignments for REAL people who REALLY need the REAL information to make a REAL decision. AND...that REAL person should be involved in grading the writing, since only she/he can say for sure if the information was truly USEFUL and the presentation was actually HELPFUL.
I've talked about this in other blog posts. But the idea hasn't gained much traction. So let me scream it one more time...because it makes such a big difference:
MAKE SURE ALL WRITING ASSIGNMENTS HAVE A REAL READER who really needs the information to make a real decision!
Then teach students the techniques necessary to keep the REAL reader's level of interest high throughout and her level of effort low! Those are the skills that need to be taught to college students (and to all students).
Please email me if you disagree...or even if you agree. This is so important. (harvey@QCGwrite.com)
P.S. If you're interested, my textbook Mastering Workplace Writing teaches the critical-thinking and writing skills necessary to shrink this writing gap and help students hit the ground running when they get to work and suddenly need to deal with real writing to real people about real issues. You can get the book from Amazon...or ask me for a free preview copy.