As e-mails replace phone calls in business communication, corporate bosses are discovering that their employees can’t write a coherent sentence. A study of 120 corporations “concluded that a third of employees in the nation’s blue-chip companies wrote poorly and that businesses were spending as much as $3.1 billion annually on remedial training. “
Millions of inscrutable e-mail messages are clogging corporate computers by setting off requests for clarification, and many of the requests, in turn, are also chaotically written, resulting in whole cycles of confusion.
Here is one from a systems analyst to her supervisor at a high-tech corporation based in Palo Alto, Calif.: “I updated the Status report for the four discrepancies Lennie forward us via e-mail (they in Barry file).. to make sure my logic was correct It seems we provide Murray with incorrect information … However after verifying controls on JBL – JBL has the indicator as B ???? – I wanted to make sure with the recent changes – I processed today – before Murray make the changes again on the mainframe to ‘C’.”
The incoherence of that message persuaded the analyst’s employers that she needed remedial training.
. . . Some $2.9 billion of the $3.1 billion the National Commission on Writing estimates that corporations spend each year on remedial training goes to help current employees, with the rest spent on new hires.
Pager shorthand is a problem too, as in this message to a business writing instructor:
“hI KATHY i am sending u the assignmnet again,” one student wrote to her recently. “i had sent you the assignment earlier but i didnt get a respond. If u get this assgnment could u please respond . thanking u for ur cooperation.”
My sister, a laid-off tech writer, used to teach remedial English at community colleges. She should get into the thriving business of business writing instruction.