Dec 05

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.