Quite contrary to the prevailing notion that the students of reputed professional colleges possess excellent communication skills, these students who flaunt their style with superficial American accent lack acceptable and grammatically correct writing skills. This over confident section, which remains unaware of its grey area, gets a shock of the life when it scores poor ranking in professional courses due to incompetent writing skills.
It is a major concern for all the faculty and trainers of English language that the students pursuing management or technical courses despite having an excellent command of speaking skills lack cohesiveness, clarity, coherence and tend to make a lot of grammatical errors in written communication. In an attempt to explore the reasons behind this, insufficient writing practice at school level can be considered as one of the major reasons. Other than this, in the modern technical world of SMS, emails, chatting etc the truncated version of various English words and sentences has done great harm to the writing skills of a person. The people habitual of deformed language used in SMS and emails fail to do justice when it comes to formal writing. Moreover, directly typing on the PC has not only affected the handwriting but also the brain storming required to use correct spelling, vocabulary and syntax. With the letter writing becoming an obsolete form of communication people after passing out from the school hardly get into writing practice other than appearing for written exams which more or less are subject oriented crammed version and don’t leave much scope for innovation and blossoming of creative talent of a person.
It would not be an exaggeration to remark that similar to Mathematics, English too requires constant practice for an excellent command of spelling, logical development of ideas, correct usage of vocabulary and grammar. It is high time everybody understood the prime requirement of written communication in the career. Speaking skills which are given more importance in comparison to the writing skills may help in accomplishing ephemeral laurels but writing skills may mar the fortunes of a person if not attended to timely. We as the trainers of English Language need to make the students understand very clearly that this is the skill which is indispensable and the learning process should be an ongoing process for acquiring success. While interacting with the students pursuing B Tech, management courses or technical courses, the following areas for improvement have been identified –
At the outset, the problems mentioned above in written communication for sure give an impression of cliched issues but a serious insight into it demands restructuring of the curriculum comprising more of written assignments following rigorous critical appreciation. Other than redesigning the curriculum, the pedagogy needs a lot more attention where the students are encouraged to pen down their creative ideas freely along with constant practice of business communication so as to bloom into prospective business magnates. By making the creative writing and essay writing competitions a regular feature of the curriculum and considering the number of articles, stories, case studies etc published as a parameter for recognition, we can give an impetus to the creative writing skills.
Above all, voracious reading is undoubtedly the sure shot way to enhance learning skills since it gradually polishes the style and presentation of thoughts while writing besides adding to the knowledge base.
Let us take a glance at some handy tips for effective written communication-
- Sentence lengths need to be adjusted according to the readers, the subject matter and to the demands of style
- Maintain coherence to show logical relationship between the elements and construction
- Ensure logical development of ideas
- Prefer short sentences
- Break the sentence. When a sentence is loaded with a lot of information, it becomes very difficult to decipher the meaning.
- Be stringent with words
- Avoid cluttering phrases
- Avoid pleonasm or redundant phrases
- Avoid roundabout expressions
- Avoid needless repetition
- Prefer active to passive voice
- Avoid ambiguous sentences
- Avoid repetition of key words and phrases
- Choose examples from real life situations
- Illustrate and demonstrate your ideas with the help of graphs, figures, charts, examples
- Be objective and concrete in expression
- Avoid jargons and high sounding technical terms
Moreover, writing requires multiple stages. The very first stage is pre–writing wherein the writer needs to give a serious thought to the theme and genre he is interested in. In the second stage i.e. drafting, one pens down one’s ideas on the paper in its raw form. Here the emphasis is more on the content rather than the delivery style or presentation. The third stage requires critical reading of the draft so as to evaluate the content, structure and logical flow of ideas. The next stage is rewriting the draft keeping in mind the critical observations along with polishing the language and expressions. Finally, the last stage demands comprehensive reading to ensure fulfillment of various aspects of the topic.
The regular practice with determination to master the art of writing skills will definitely ensure a promising career. It is the biggest asset for all the professionals who have to everyday juggle with various business correspondences ranging from reports, letters, memos, e-mail messages to technical proposals, instruction manuals, CV, resumes etc.
Dr Shalini Kalia is Faculty of Soft Skills at ICFAI
* Article first published in FORTELL newsletter, issue no. 15