Does correct -- not even good -- writing matter anymore? Our answer is, yes. But it seems there's debate about whether the basics of writing count for much these days as an indicator of personal worth. They should, for they signal qualities like attentiveness, discipline, and the ability to relate well to others -- like customers, journalists, or public officials.
However, Diane Schwartz on The PR News Blog advises that when she asked PR colleagues what they do when they get a a cover letter and résumé "riddled with spelling errors and typos but the candidate's experience looks great," seven out of 10 "said they would still bring the candidate in for an interview, overlooking the first-impression communique, because the candidate's experience fits the job opening."
"And we wonder," Schwartz adds, "why we have so many communicators who can't write."
We're not advocating heartlessness, but first impressions matter, and writing is an indicator of who's behind a given attempt at expression. Suppose you get an e-mail from a PR professional who says (as contributed by Schwartz courtesy of a colleague of hers): "I hope your doing well. Would u be interested in talking to our CEO about an amazing, new servce we just launched." Would you be excited about talking to anyone from that company?
Writing matters as an indicator of competence and regard for an organization's self-image. We're not saying don't hire anyone who betrays sloppiness in written expression, but if you do hire a careless writer, make tutoring in the craft part of your offer. Written expression matters, for better or worse.
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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