Is Knowing How to Rite Importent Anymoor?

In the past few months at industry conferences, the topic of good writing skills among PR professionals has stirred heated discussion, much like a support group for the grammatically superior.  Everyone agrees that communicators need to know how to write well, communicate a message, and get the intended action/response from that communication.  But are we walking the talk?

Whether it’s a press release, an internal memo, an email to a reporter, a white paper or, dare I say, a tweet — the art of writing is one of the most important skills any businessperson can have.  We can blame our grade school teachers or our mother for not making us better writers, but let’s move on from that and start paying attention to how we write and demand better from our staff.  Especially with our staff on the loose with social media 24/7, without editors by their side, their writing skills shine a big fat spotlight on your brand and its image.

This particular post is not about “what we write” – it’s about grammar skills, proper word and punctuation usage, choice of words.  It can make the difference between a reporter responding to your email positivitely or sending that email to his friends snickering about the message. To wit:  a colleague sent me an email from a PR professional that said: “I hope your doing well.  Would u be interested in talking to our CEO about an amazing, new servce we just launched.” There is so much wrong with that opening paragraph and unfortunately for this company and its product launch, this story is unlikely to get covered by journalists who take writing pretty seriously and connote poor writing skills (perhaps unfairly) to lower intelligence.

If you are a hiring manager, what do you do when you get a cover letter and resume riddled with spelling errors and typos but the candidate’s experience looks great? Do you bring that person in and overlook the sloppy writing? I’ve asked some PR colleagues this questions and the majority (7 out of 10) said they would still bring the candidate in for an interview, overlooking the first-impression communique, because the candidate’s experience fits the job opening.  And we wonder why we have so many communicators who can’t write.  Let me know what you think — are you surrounded by great writers, mediocre ones, or those who need to repeat fourth grade?

– Diane

  • Mike Ritchie

    Hi Diane,

    “The art of writing is one of the most important skills any businessperson can have.”

    Hear, Hear.

    This is a subject close to my heart and a problem that seems to be growing. I live and work in Scotland – formerly as a journalist and now in PR – so the sloppy writing, as your words indicate, appears to be international these days.

    If you have time, you can read some of my thoughts on this very issue on my latest blog:

    Accuracy with words is crucial – the grammar needs to be spot-on and the spelling flawless. Nothing else will do.

    Best wishes,

  • Megan

    I absolutely think people need to put more effort in their writing, whether it’s in an email pitch, a tweet or a blog post. Everything you write is “on record” and reflects a part of who you are a professional.

    Thanks for bringing up this reminder for us all!

  • John Clark

    I think with all the texting that is the ‘new normal’ with the 13-25 age group, we are creating a generation that simply can’t write. While the speed of communication is faster, I think the message is reduced with all the spelling errors.
    It will be interesting to see what comes of this generation when they really become a part of the work force.

  • Scott Sheperd

    I am appalled at how poorly we write. Its not just grammar and spelling. It’s the whole package of putting ideas together and then presenting them in a coherent way. Look, anyone can misspell a word from time to time but this problem is much deeper. And even with misspellings it’s amazing how little we edit ourselves. Major headlines or banners or ads have misspellings! Who is editing?
    Forget eloquent prose. We can’t send out a memo that makes sense.