Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Why Can't Tertiary Learners Write A "Decent" Business Letter?

Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Why Can't Tertiary Learners Write A "Decent" Business Letter?

Article excerpt


Globalization has unlocked thousands of jobs worldwide, which has knit the people of different countries and cultures to work with one accord. Graduates from universities and colleges dream to enter the global stream of corporate employees as soon as they complete their education. But the corporate organizations constantly complain about the poor writing skills of the new hires. There could be various reasons as to why students do not write well. The present study aimed to focus on one of the reasons. The study administered a questionnaire on one hundred second year Bachelor in Computer Application (BCA) students (tertiary learners) of an Arts and Science College in Chennai, India, to understand the perception of the tertiary students about their English language and formal writing skills (business letter, report, memo, and e-mail). The analysis indicated that the students perceived their formal writing skills to be "good." Further, the study framed the hypothesis and the Part 2 (Diagnostic test) business letter writing task was administered to the same sample of students. The evaluation of the business letters showed that not even a quarter of the students were able to write "good" business letters.

Literature Review

Worldwide, career opportunities have accelerated the need for excellence in the usage of the English language skills. "English is now spoken in over forty countries as a first language and in over fifty-five countries as a second language, and the language seems to be on an ever increasing and unstoppable trajectory of use" (Graddol 1997, 47). English has become a reputable official language in government, educational, public, and private sector organizations. Higher education is also dependent on English for its academic programs. "English is now taught in over a hundred countries and is emerging as the chief foreign language being learnt, displacing other languages in the process" (Ahmed 2014, 38).

The corporate world is the likely destination of the graduates emerging from various colleges. But are they equipped to meet the corporate demand and build a career in the corporate arena? Gupta (2013, 3) points out that the engineering students "lack basic knowledge skills, in particular, vocabulary, spoken skills, and usage of grammar." One of the reasons for the poor writing amongst graduate learners is that the internet era has brought the idea in them that "standards" for effective writing are not required. Both formal and informal emails are filled with slangs, clichés, grammatical errors, inappropriate style, tone, etc. Online writing conventions have adversely affected the college classrooms' writings. Welker and Berardino (2009, 67) say that "the internet era has made the modern youth see no need for manners in e-mails, and most say they do not fret over trivialities such as punctuations, grammar, and style." The study shows the attitude of tertiary learners about their writing skills.

Hollis-Turner and Scholtz (2010) point out that writing in the workplace needs to meet the specific requirements of the audience like clients, customers, managers, etc. But writing in the educational setup aims at fulfilling the needs of the academic program. "The basics are still key to jobs when developing training manuals, reports for external reviewers, grant proposals, service brochures, issue brief and memos to business contacts," say Welker and Berardino (2009, 68).

Moore (2016) cites a study from College Board (a panel established by the National Commission on Writing) which reveals that the blue chip businesses are spending as much as $3.1 billion on remedial writing training, annually. Of this budget, $2.9 billion was spent on current employees, not new hires. She further points out that a gap still exists between employer expectations and employee's writing skills and the deteriorating writing skills of graduates.


As evidenced from the above literature review, poor writing skill has developed into a huge crisis facing the corporate world. …

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