The Imperative for Teaching Business Writing in the Digital Age

By Welker, Jan; Berardino, Lisa | Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, January 2009 | Go to article overview

The Imperative for Teaching Business Writing in the Digital Age


Welker, Jan, Berardino, Lisa, Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict


INTRODUCTION

This article is a description of a teaching tactic by two professors in an attempt to address business writing errors. The motivation was based on repeated observation of the same errors in online discussion postings, essay questions on exams, journal reviews, research projects and term papers across courses and time. Writing is defined herein as social versus business writing (Danet 2002). Social writing is casual 'home talk' and business writing is academic and professional 'school talk'. School talk uses conventional writing rules in coursework and in the workplace (Nelson & Feinstein 2007) and is the subject of this article.

BACKGROUND

The background information that follows has greatly assisted these authors, who are not writing experts, in understanding the context in which business students are making writing convention errors.

The Plain Language Movement in the 1970s set out to make bureaucratic language more comprehensible to laypersons. Documents became more speech-like, and schools moved from emphasis on conventional writing in favor of the message students wanted to express.

Consequently, the focus of teaching shifted to a personal voice. At the time of The Movement, there was a generally held belief that the knowledge of grammar is 'innate' and will 'shine through' with practice (Nelson & Feinstein, 2007). However, knowledge of domain content must both exist and be practiced to become efficient (Willingham, 2007).

The 1993 National Commission on Excellence in Education reported that 17 year-olds did not possess the 'higher-order intellectual skills' needed to draw inferences from written material (Willingham, 2007). The1999 National Association of Educational Progress noted most students scored at the basic writing level; and, the 2003 ACT National Curriculum Survey confirmed that half of college freshmen needed a remedial course to address the 'muttled writing mess' (Nelson & Feinstein, 2007). The new Millennials, defined by Gans 2007 as persons born between 1981 and 2000 and comprising 27.5% of the U.S. population, excel in technology utilization but tend to be weak in oral and written communications (Alsop, 2007). Traditional writing in standardized test scores for language assessment has decreased in recent years while math scores have unilaterally increased (Craig, 2003; Chaker, 2007).

The boundaries between social and business writing began blurring in the late 19th century due to preoccupation with function-related business communication; thus, the memo format and forfeiture of custom and courtesy in name of efficiency. The dividing line contains wide variation in punctuation; spelling; capitalization; graphic depictions for words; abbreviations; run-on sentences; and contractions (Danet, 2002).

Technology Links

There are three kinds of literacy: oral, print and electracy with the latter defined as 'fluency in the new digital media with the Internet being the fundamental element' (Leibowitz, 1999, pp 4, 7). The Internet has become the dominant medium of both expression and communication and has changed the way the world communicates by combing speech and writing that escapes standard conventions of English. 'Thoughts pour out with all the structure of a small child's speech'. The emphasis is on speed resulting in a new language, Netspeak. Leaders of The Plain Language Movement did not anticipate that students daily practice their 'innate knowledge' of writing, or the absence thereof, with their friends (Nelson & Feinstein, 2007).

Emails are unstructured streams-of-consciousness that Leibowitz (1999) described as 'anal-expulsive'. People under age 25 see no need for manners in email, and most say they do not fret over trivialities such as punctuation, grammar and style. There is an assumption that conventions of writing are unnecessary on the Internet. However, while the speaking part of Netspeak does not require conventions, the writing part of online communications must still be organized (Nelson & Feinstein, 2007). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Imperative for Teaching Business Writing in the Digital Age
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.