London’s Evening Standard has recently been running a campaign to improve literacy in London. It has published a series of reports that highlight the capital’s poor literacy rates which affect the population from primary school children to disenfranchised school leavers through to recent graduates new to the corporate world.
The paper suggests that the British education system is failing to equip our children with the fundamental basic skills to help them enter the job market. This can range from an inability to read basic instruction manuals through to poorly constructed emails to customers or more complex business reports or proposals.
Recruiters are finding that many CVs and letters of application just aren’t up to scratch and four in ten job applications are rejected due to poor grammar and spelling. Even the best candidates often need help with their basic skills and the CBI has quoted that 17% of British firms are concerned by the low literacy skills of graduates.
It is strange that many British employees demonstrate a lack of concern regarding the accuracy of their written communication and are either unaware of or unconcerned by basic errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling. The ubiquitous use of email and instant messaging means that written communication is much quicker and more immediate than ever before. However, this should not mean that it is of a lower standard or lacking in professionalism. A misplaced apostrophe, the use of text abbreviations or poor grammar can all cause misunderstanding, frustration and leave a poor impression on the reader’s screen. Few of us would attend an important meeting or job interview with a stain on our jacket or unkempt hair and so why would we think it acceptable to send written communication that we have not checked for visible errors?
Many organisations tackle these issues early on and include basic business writing skills courses as part of their training offering to new recruits. Only when elementary errors of grammar and punctuation have been rectified can employees then go on to develop more sophisticated writing skills that will enable them to convince colleagues, persuade clients and win business for their organisations.