As much as possible, I like to consider myself a silver lining type of girl these days. I wasn’t always this way, and it still doesn’t come naturally, but I try.
Generally my mind works like this: I see or read something alarming, disturbing or simply annoying, and I initially react with alarm, disturbance or annoyance. Then, after what ideally is a brief time, or even almost immediately, I try to look for the silver lining in what I’ve just seen or read.
Take this article that I came across last week.
In a recently released report, the business consulting firm PayScale found that almost half of all hiring managers surveyed stated that the skill they see most lacking in college graduates today is the ability to write.
And I thought, “Wha-a-a-t?”
Then I realized that, sadly, I wasn’t truly surprised.
I mean, I see it on Facebook all the time. Not typos, which I sort of can live with because I am the Typo Queen (although there’s really no reason for them either, because you can edit a published post) but out and out grammatical and spelling errors, and an over reliance on texting abbreviations.
I see the same things at work, in emails, and in external communications I review as part of my job. Punctuation errors. Incorrect capitalization of common nouns. Participles and modifiers dangling everywhere. I.e. when it should be e.g., for heaven’s sake! (Okay, I forgive most people that one. I looked it up myself many years ago, as I didn’t recall learning it in school.)
So, back to that article I read about college grads. After my initial reaction upon reading it, I came next to the silver lining–think about the opportunities this opens up for those who can write and write well!
Businesses need us.
And I’m not just talking about communications departments; in fact, those jobs are probably filled by some of the more than 50 percent of college grads who do possess solid writing skills.
Many other departments in an organization need solid writing skills, as does anyone aspiring to a leadership role in most companies. As I wrote about a number of years ago in an article entitled “Corporate Roads Less Traveled: A Guide for Freelance Writers” which commercial writer Peter Bowerman included in his second Well-Fed Writer book, Back for Seconds, departments that need competent writing skills include Customer Service, Marketing, Training,Human Resources–even the code-crazy folks in IT departments need to communicate in writing. And I wrote that article well before the emergence of social media and blogging platforms, which provide even more opportunities for the enterprising writer.
Besides offering services directly as freelancers and consultants, writers can also put together business and executive writing courses, then deliver them online, as webinars or in person, filling in the gaps that our education system obviously missed. And, remarkably, these courses can cover pretty basic elements, from the proper use of punctuation (oh, that poor apostrophe and semi-colon!) to when and when not to capitalize nouns (yeah, I realize I’d already griped about that one). You’d be amazed by what people don’t know about writing well. Or maybe not.
Of course, finding or creating these opportunities might take a little chutzpah. You won’t necessarily come across them by searching through online job boards–you’ll need to network and promote, actions that don’t always come easily to the introverted writer. But I’m as convinced that the opportunities are out there as much as I was back when I wrote that article. Maybe even more so.
The English language, while always wonderfully morphing, doesn’t have to be reduced to a twisted heap of hooked on phonics. This is a call to action for writers who are in search of work, to go out there and rescue the written word from the clutches of those who unwittingly but nonetheless brutally abuse it.
After all, we’re its last line of defense.