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Special Report: Illiteracy in Corporate America

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The National Commission on Writing, a panel established by the College Board, recently completed a survey of 120 American Corporations. In their report, “Writing: A Ticket to Work… Or a Ticket Out”, they concluded that a third of employees in American corporations do not possess adequate writing skills. And, in half the companies surveyed, less than one third of the employees had adequate communication skills.

a third of employees in American corporations do not possess adequate writing skills

But businesses are getting savvier. Businesses spent an estimated 3.1 billion dollars last year on remedial writing programs. They mostly screen employees writing ability to find those that are unable to communicate effectively. However, some companies are starting to screen for those that use all capital letters and multiple exclamation points in business communication. These people are, of course, completely insane, and will be slated for promotion.

Would Tolstoy be employable in corporate America?

This survey comes as no surprise to our nation’s English majors, most of whom work as checkout clerks or customer service representatives. Susan Traiman of the Business Roundtable seconded this. "It's not that companies want to hire Tolstoy,” she said. “But they need people who can write clearly, and many employees and applicants fall short of that standard." This should put to bed the much debated question “Would Tolstoy be employable in corporate America?”

Another factor to consider is the long term costs of miscommunication in the workplace. Morton Hein, a highly paid record executive was fired for sending a text message to his boss. While he had meant to say, “See you in there.” he decided to shorten the message by prefixing "There" with "CUN". Of course, incidents like this are greatly overshadowed by the 2003 email sent to a floor supervisor in a Nuclear Plant in West Virginia. The message, “Dude U R SOOOO HOT!!!!” nearly caused a major nuclear accident. Additionally, it resulted in three sexual harassment suits.

I'm amazed you're able to express yourself so clearly with your tongue planted so firmly in your cheek.

Excellent writing. I enjoy your work very much.

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