Spellcheck isn’t the solution

I recently had the opportunity to lecture before a University of Vermont business class. They’d invited me to address the changing nature of marketing, ways in which to connect with an increasingly fragmented society and to share best practices.

I came away extremely impressed by their energy and curiosity. As might be expected of soon-to-be-college grads, however, many of their questions revolved around job opportunities.

I didn’t pull any punches and told them the job market is tight and that, to be successful, they needed to think of themselves as a brand. By that I meant they need to figure out their strengths and points of differentiation as well as the key message points needed to be communicated in any job interview.

I also warned them about the single biggest challenge every public relations firm faces in recruiting talent, namely, the dearth of quality written communications on the part of applicants.

Recruiters everywhere are bemoaning the horrific writing skills of many college grads. I’m not sure what the cause or causes are, but we need to figure out a solution.

There’s problems in "them there hills" when graduates of top schools choose to spell "there" in the preceding phrase as either "their" or "they’re." And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve seen such misspellings as "unexceptable" instead of "unacceptable" from applicants. And, the word "here" is another one that is routinely misused. And it’s not just spelling. It’s grammar and word usage as well.

And, that’s where the "kids" get in trouble. They’ve grown up relying on the spellcheck function on their computers. As we know, spellcheck won’t correct improper usage.

I’m not sure how we can fix the problem, but I have to believe it’s too late by the time kids arrive on college campuses.

Maybe it’s as simple as asking grammar school teachers to provide spellcheck clinics? Whatever the answer, I know I speak for other PR executives when I say I’m tired of hitting the virtual "delete" key when I see another dismal, spellcheck-dependent writing sample.

2 thoughts on “Spellcheck isn’t the solution

  1. One of the best ways to improve one’s writing is through reading, which is why I was saddened today when I was reminded by Maureen Dowd’s column in the NY Times that our very own president doesn’t read newspapers, magazines, etc. Her comments were based on Bush’s recent interview with Brian Williams of NBC News where he claimed he hadn’t even read the cover story on his administration in Newsweek (Bush in a bubble).
    This really sets an awful example for our youth. In today’s era of globalization, where knowledge on changing social, political and economic issues is so critical, one would hope that the leader of the free world would use the act of reading to keep apprised of developments taking place here and around the world.
    I guess I’ll keep hoping…

  2. Amen, RepMan. Sadly, a lot of talented veterans struggle with the same problems. They don’t know when to use the subjective versus objective case, can’t recognize a run-on sentence when they see one, and constantly misuse idioms and expressions. I don’t suppose our increasingly reliance on shorthand typing in instant messages and on the BlackBerry help …