This is why I worry about my students. From freshmen to seniors, many have challenges writing well. I believe the problem stems from being taught by teachers with just so-so abilities at written English; these students also suffer from a general lack of reading.
I’m quick to point out when students write with what I call “hyper-commas” (too many commas where they don’t belong), or not enough commas, or misused colons and semi-colons, or lower case proper nouns, or periods outside the quotation marks. I cringe when I see “it’s” or “there” when it should read “its” or “their.” Run-on sentences tend to make me crazy because they often go on for four lines and repeat the same words and don’t include commas or semi-colons when they could just have easily been broken up into two shorter sentences instead of one long one that seems to go on forever.
The reason I’m somewhat merciless on this subject is because I truly care about the future of these students as PR professionals. Bad spelling and punctuation in a press release mean a quick trip to the garbage pail and probably the unemployment line. But I’m seeing it in their work too frequently, so I worry and correct and make a pest of myself.
A poor writer can become a good writer and a good writer can become a great writer. But it doesn’t happen by itself. It takes reading and writing and proofing and more reading. It takes checking the AP Style Guide and Strunk’s “The Elements of Style” as you write. It takes a desire to be better, because when you’re competing for that PR job, you’re writing samples have to stand above the dozens of samples you’ll be up against (Oh, and find the usage mistake in this last sentence!).
OK, today’s lecture is over. For some writing tips, click on the picture above which was taken at my conference for nonprofit PR last week, and then live by those rules. To work among professional communicators, good writing is going to be the difference between success and failure. Your thoughts?