Thursday, February 14, 2008

What I'm Hearing...Writing Skills

Yesterday I received a catalog from Uline, a company which specializes in shipping supplies. Liz Uihlein writes on page 374 of the catalog about 7th Grade, Mr. Nelson and Uline.

Ms. Uihlein makes the case that today's employees and consultants don't have the necessary skills to communicate effectively in the workplace. Prioritization, focus, and organization are missing in written documents. As she explains, Despite a "How to Write at Uline" indoctrination by our HR department when employees are hired, poorly written documents submitted to me remains one of my biggest daily challenges. "What is your point, what do you propose, what are your Top 3?" I ask over and over. Lately, I've taken to saying "Return to sender and redo. You're wasting my time."

I too have read documents prepared by individuals for whom English is their native tongue. To read the document, however, you would think English was their third language. I've also seen choppy PowerPoint presentations explained away as "it's meant as talking points and not a written lasting document."

Why is it difficult for individuals to realize the importance of producing polished written work? What you write reflects on who you are. People will make decisions about you based solely on how you write. (Think about what you do with resumes that have typos and other errors.) Writing skills are not something that develop overnight. However, as HR professionals, we should be actively working with our current and future employees, through Workforce Readiness initiatives, to ensure that everyone communicates as clearly and effectively as possible.


  1. Amazingly, the error was not caught: "....poorly written documents submitted to me remains one of my biggest daily challenges." Plural subject and singular verb form; it should be "....poorly written documents.....remain...."

  2. Thanks for your eagle eye and for reaching out!


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