Why on-the-job writing skills are more important than ever

Will your teens have strong on-the-job writing skills? Studies show it's more important than ever if they hope to get---and keep---a job.

We parents give an awful lot of thought to what our children will do once we’re done homeschooling. Will they go to college or university? Take a vocational track? Enter the ministry? Will they become scientists or mortgage lenders? Clerical workers or nurses? Entrepreneurs or educators?

One thing seems clear: No matter the profession, studies show it’s more important than ever that your teen develop good writing skills if he or she hopes to get—and keep—a job.

Writing: A Ticket to Work . . . or a Ticket Out

According to a survey polling 120 American corporations (whose payrolls include nearly 8 million people), an employee’s on-the-job writing skills can either hinder or advance him in the company.

The survey may be a few years old, but its ramifications remain relevant today. Here are some of the survey’s findings:

  • People who cannot write and communicate clearly will not be hired and are unlikely to last long enough to be considered for promotion.
  • Two-thirds of salaried employees in large American companies have some writing responsibility. “All employees must have writing ability,” said one human resource director.
  • Eighty percent or more of the companies in the service and finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE) sectors, the corporations with the greatest employment growth potential, assess writing during hiring. “Applicants who provide poorly written letters wouldn’t likely get an interview,” commented one insurance executive.
  • Half of all companies take writing into account when making promotion decisions.
  • More than 40 percent of responding firms offer or require training for salaried employees with writing deficiencies. Based on the survey responses, it appears that it may cost American firms as much as $3.1 billion per year to remedy poor writing skills. “We’re likely to send out 200–300 people annually for skills-upgrade courses like ‘business writing’ or ‘technical writing,’” said one respondent.

You can read the entire report here.

Focus on Key Writing Skills

What does this mean for your child? Simply, it doesn’t matter whether or not she’s college-bound. If she expects to succeed in the workplace, she’ll need to demonstrate better-than-average writing skills.

So make sure to focus on basic but key writing skills throughout junior high and high school to adequately prepare her. Minimally, by the time your teen graduates from high school, she should know how to:

  • Write a clear, well-organized essay.
  • Write a business letter.
  • Use correct grammar.
  • Use proper punctuation, including correct use of quotation marks and apostrophes.
  • Use good sentence structure, including avoiding run-on sentences and sentence fragments.
  • Avoid using slang and shortcuts common to texting and instant messaging.
  • Properly site sources (avoiding plagiarism).
  • Self-edit and proofread her own writing.

Helpful Resources

If you’re looking for a place to start or need a few supplemental resources, check out some of these links and products:

Photo: Isabelle, courtesy of Creative Commons
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8 comments ↓

#1 JoJo Tabares on 01.25.10 at 5:20 am

Most companies are realizing the need for employees with excellent writing and oral communication skills. While most will spend a few weeks training new hires, they will not and cannot train them in these most important skills in that time frame. These are the skills they require of applicants.

#2 Kim on 01.25.10 at 8:19 am

I couldn’t agree more, JoJo! And this would be a good time to mention the Say What You Mean Convention coming up February 3, where the importance of writing, speech, and conversation will be on the menu as the “Three Flavors of Communication.” :)

#3 Pat VanderBeek on 01.25.10 at 8:38 am

I’ve been editing our church’s newsletter for 6 years and I am no longer shocked at the poor writing skills of several of our article writers. Sometimes I wonder what a writer is trying to say in a particular “sentence.” It’s like completing a puzzle when I finally figure out what (s)he’s trying to say; then I can fix it accordingly.

#4 Kim on 01.25.10 at 8:42 am

Pat: Such a great example to illustrate that this is a real-life concern. Thanks for taking a moment to share it!

#5 Jimmie on 01.25.10 at 7:49 pm

Homeschool moms NEED to hear this message. Writing cutesy poems (although great fun!) and short stories is not what will take a young person towards writing success. The majority of our writing instruction should be firmly grounded in expository writing.

#6 Kim on 01.25.10 at 10:29 pm

Stories and poems do have their place–and I know you know this from personal experience! For many children, such exercises provide the jump-start to more complex writing by teaching them to play with words and by fostering a love for writing.

Even if a child shows a strong inclination toward creative writing, you’re right that he or she still needs to write informatively and persuasively, for that’s where the rubber truly meets the road in college and beyond.

Thanks for weighing in, Jimmie!

#7 Crystal Olivarria on 08.12.14 at 3:14 pm

Through personal experience I have discovered that people who can not communicate effectively make it challenging for people to work together to reach a common goal. I can understand why employers spend so much money per year to help employees become more proficient at written communication.

#8 Kim Kautzer on 08.12.14 at 3:18 pm

So true, Crystal. Thanks for stopping by!

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