Saturday, April 14, 2012

Your Career and You: "Communication...Write Right"


I’m returning to a topic that I seem to be addressing more and more often…writing.

I just read a piece by a blogger who claims to be a PR professional as well.

He was holding forth with “expert” observation on how we public relations professionals should be communicating with him as an “online resource” for getting publicity for clients or employers.

I quit reading after the first couple of paragraphs.

Got tired of seeing misspelled words, improper punctuation, and just generally sloppy writing.

My students at Curry College, where I head the Communication Department’s undergraduate Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the PR courses, have heard my opinions on the need to write well.

They also have learned to expect a lot of red ink and snarky comments, especially in senior-level courses, about the third-grade level of their writing if, in fact, it is such.

Sorry, folks. I don’t appreciate, like, or condone crappy writing.

I’m not impressed by the fact that you can dump a bunch of words onto a piece of paper or a computer screen.

What I am impressed by is your attention to detail, which, for me, implies that you are meticulous in your fact-checking and research and that what I am reading is accurate, truthful, and something I can “take to the bank.”

That the fellow I mentioned in the beginning would take such a holier-than-thou attitude when he, himself, obviously didn’t bother to proofread his own work or (perhaps?) is willing to accept shoddy products as long as they are his own is worrisome.

If he represents (and I don’t believe this to be the case…at this point in time at least) the next generation of communicators, we are in deep yogurt.

Communication…both from the public relations perspective as well as from the journalistic point of view…is about delivery of news and information accurately.

To me, that means checking and double-checking facts, rumors…whatever the source…to ensure that accuracy.

When I see obviously incorrect grammar, really sloppy punctuation, or glaring typos in an article or blog post…or news release, I immediately suspect the producer of that work as well as the reliability of the information.

If you didn’t take the time to proofread your own work, what does that imply when it comes to your having verified the source of the information you’ve communicated?

And, contrary to the statement of a young lady in one of my PR classes very early in my teaching career, “someone else” isn’t going to fix the mistakes for you. It’s on your shoulders.

For students who are reading my thoughts today, consider this piece of advice that applies equally whether in the rapidly-evolving online communication arena or in more traditional written communication.

Here it is…I don’t know who you are when I review your written work. All I know is what I perceive about you based on the quality of your writing.

Well-written, concisely-worded work implies that you have devoted thorough research and professional thought. It tells me that you have given your work your full attention and are presenting me with your best.

What does your written work say about you?

"Achilles exists only through Homer. Take away the art of writing from this world, and you will probably take away its glory."
Francois Rene de Chateaubriand, Les Natchez [1826], preface

5 comments:

  1. "Publish or perish." If you can't write properly, you can not become highly educated
    or get the great jobs.

    Pat Hunt
    CEO and Educator

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. From the employer's perspective: We do not even bother to look at your resume if the cover letter is filled with the types of errors that Prof Hazlett refers to...even if you are the most qualified.

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    2. Thanks for the validation, Doug. I'm going to keep returning to this particular point forever!

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    3. Very, very true, Pat. I'm a smidge skeptical of future generations' ability to write coherent sentences and communicate successfully. I see a lot of false alarms and false starts resulting from misunderstandings of written communication. Hope I'm wrong.

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