The latest statistics show that SAT writing scores for the graduating class of 2011 are the lowest scores ever recorded. What does that mean for this generation of students? With the advent of texting and even business correspondence relaxing thanks to email and electronic versions of resumes, does writing matter any more? Should we even care if our graduating students don’t dot their i’s and cross their t’s?

Why Are SAT Writing Scores Declining?

Unfortunately, writing scores are the only scores on the decline. Math and reading scores have also declined. In fact, only 43% of the graduating class of 2011 scored high enough to indicate they have the basic skills to get them through college. (Basically, anyone who scores under a 1550 has less than a 65% chance of scoring a B- or higher in college classes. In other words, if you don’t score a 1550 or higher, you’re going to have a tough time making it through college.)

But why is this happening? And why are writing skills (in particular) dropping so much?

Teachers blame the following:

  • Lack of discipline in class—if the class isn’t under control, the kids don’t learn
  • Texting and email has popularized nonstandard methods of writing, usurping proper writing techniques and standards
  • Cultural influence—it’s popular to write using incorrect English, especially slang, which undermines whatever writing skills kids may have picked up in class

So What if Our Generation Can’t Write? Does it Matter?

If you can communicate with your boss via casual emails and you don’t have to write flowery poetry to win over a date, is it important to know how to write well? Why emphasize writing skills in this day and age? Because writing skills do matter—especially in the business world.

Professional Communication Requires Excellent English

You might be able to get away with some slang here and there, but you’ll need to be able to speak and write professionally just to get your foot in the door and to maintain the respect of your colleagues. Even software engineers need to document processes and findings, and even chemists have to record findings and write up proposals. You’re going to need solid writing skills to succeed in most professions; you’ll find people will judge you by your writing skills, even if the job you’re gunning for doesn’t have the phrase “writing skills” in the description.

Today’s Young Professionals Are Competing on a Global Level

It may be cool to text your friends to determine where you’re meeting for happy hour, but you’ll need to use professional language to compete with the foreigners coming over with impeccable English and writing skills—those people who want your job. It’s time to get concerned when people who studied English as their second language write better cover letters, resumes, power point presentations, reports, and study summaries than you do.

Can Writing Practice Improve Critical Thinking Skills?

There’s yet another reason to work on your writing skills. In a study conducted by Ian Quitdamo and Martha Kurtz at Central Washington University, college students were enrolled in two programs: one that provided ongoing writing practice, and one that did not. At the end of the study, both sets of students took a critical thinking skill assessment test. The students who had participated in the writing practice program performed, on average, nine times better than the students that did not get the writing practice.

Writing Skills – Improve Them While You Can!

If you’re a college student, be sure to take core writing and English courses to improve your writing skills before you have to start interviewing. It’s important to understand the basics of business communication and to get those writing skills down pat. You’ll be glad you did when that hard work pays off!

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