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Writing is far from dead

BY SAMUEL CLEARY | MAY 11, 2012 6:30 AM

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I'm one of those people who gets irritated by poor writing. I get annoyed when someone writes "to" instead of "too" or when a friend ends a sentence with a preposition. Call me old-fashioned.

In a casual conversation earlier this week, I was shocked to hear my roommate tell me that "writing is dead."

Yes, it stung a bit — I'm a writing major. But it wasn't the comment that bothered me: It was the explanation. Apparently, spell-check means that learning how to write is unimportant, twitter-speak means that we don't need to use full sentences, and that, well, everything's about math and science nowadays.

Such logic astounds me: Writing is not an art as much as it is a language in and of itself — a code, so to speak. Good writing is good thinking. How well we write determines how well we can articulate our thought processes, our ingenuity, our scientific discoveries.

I'm going to explain why writing is important. For one, it's a gate-keeping skill and a practical one. With an ever-increasing number of kids entering the professional world, correspondence with potential employers occurs primarily at an electronic level. Email, social networking, and résumé presentation epitomizes nearly all preliminary interactions between employer and applicant. Often, it's that first email that gets your foot in the door. Those who fail to write well will also fail to enter the job market at the level for which they've been formally educated. And those who have well-developed communicative abilities? They'll not only enter the work world successfully, they'll excel.

I won't delve into the cultural importance of writing — let's be honest, no one seems to care. What people seem to be concerned with is marketability: What skills are important to master in order to be professionally equipped for the work world? Writing, my friends, is at the top of the list. But don't take my word for it.

According to a College Board report conducted by the National Commission on Writing, writing is, more or less, a ticket into the work world. In a survey of 64 major American companies, the study found that businesses consider writing a threshold skill for both employment and promotion.

According to the findings, people who fail to write well and communicate clearly are not only seldom hired, they also fail to be considered for promotion.

Eloquence, my friends, is everything.

In an age in which face time is a dying art and impressions are often made via technological means of communication, writing is how you present yourself. Each time you correspond through writing, you're painting a picture of who you are: And if you can't master the simple brush strokes, you're a lost cause.

Another surprising — and daunting — statistic: More than 80 percent of the companies surveyed by the National Commission on Writing assess writing during the hiring process. One executive even contended that applicants who present poorly written cover levels are seldom considered for employment.

How people present themselves on paper means the difference between a tailored, Armani get-up and a neon jumpsuit in the eyes of the employer.

Writing is thinking on paper. Failure to master its basic components can be interpreted as a basic inability to think critically. And what kind of employer is actively seeking a young, college grad with little to no critical thinking skills? Check craigslist.

We attend a school that has a national reputation for its outstanding writing programs. So take a few classes. Rhetoric's not enough: Trust me, I took it. Yes, it's a joke. Whether you're a physics genius or a math wiz, a doctor or a geologist, you'll still have to explain yourself one day.


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