Writing Apprehension in Beginning Accounting Majors
Faris, Kay A., Golen, Stephen P., Lynch, David H., Business Communication Quarterly
The objective of this research was to determine whether accounting majors, who consider writing to be relatively unimportant in the accounting profession (Rebele, 1985), are affected by a greater level of writing apprehension than other business majors. Also of interest was whether gender, age, and grades in Freshman Composition were related to the level of writing anxiety.
Accountants spend a significant amount of time in written communication, and a number of writers have documented the need for effective writing skills in the profession (AICPA, 1988; Arthur Andersen & Co. et al., 1989; Heimstra, Schmidt & Madison, 1990; National Association of Accountants, 1987; Northey, 1990). The Accounting Education Change Commission (1990), the AICPA (1988), and the senior partners of the world's largest public accounting firms (Arthur Andersen & Co. et al., 1989) stress the need for accountants to have both effective written composition and oral communication skills. They emphasize that schools should ensure that students demonstrate these skills in each course. In fact, beginning in May 1994, the CPA exam began including writing skills.
Because of changes in the business environment, accountants will need to receive and provide more written information (Mueller & Simmons, 1989). Many academicians and practitioners in the accounting field have expressed dissatisfaction with the communication skills of entry-level accountants (Andrews & Koester, 1979; Andrews & Sigband, 1984; Nelson, Moncada, & Smith, 1996). Seeing a need to improve accounting students' writing skills, they have recommended strategies for addressing the problem. Academic institutions have put increased emphasis on writing in the accounting curriculum (Gingras, 1987) and writing assignments in accounting courses can enhance students' writing skills (Mohrweis, 1991; Stout, Sumutko & Wygal, 1991).
Interestingly, although writing skills are exceedingly important in the accounting profession, and practitioners are calling for increased writing skills, accounting students perceive these skills to be relatively unimportant in the profession (Rebele, 1985).
Because accountants need writing skills to succeed in their profession, educators need to examine the impact of various barriers or obstacles on the writing process. Several researchers in composition have identified a significant barrier known as writing apprehension or writing anxiety. Daly and Miller (Daly, 1979) use this term to describe a psychological condition of some people that causes them to avoid doing writing that is likely to be evaluated; in this situation, these people tend to find the experience of writing more punishing than rewarding and thus they avoid this task. Many individuals experience the effects of writing apprehension, which can affect their academic, career, and personal choices.
In different ways, people find that their lives are affected by apprehension. Daly and McCrosky (1975), for example, studied the effect of communication apprehension on occupational choice and desirability. Their results indicate that people who are apprehensive about communicating tend to select occupations that present low communication requirements, while those without such apprehension seek jobs with high levels of communication. Accounting majors have been shown to have higher levels of oral communication apprehension than do other business majors (Stanga & Ladd, 1990), a finding that could mean they believe accounting to have lower communication requirements. A study by Daly and Shamo (1978) reported that students tend to select majors according to the writing requirement. Students with high writing anxiety select majors having lower writing requirements. Students with low writing anxiety select majors with higher writing requirements.
Apparently, people choose an occupation in business or industry based in part on their level of communication apprehension. …