Tuesday, March 8, 2011

MBAs Don't Know How to Write

Question: What are these otherwise bright students doing wrong?

Answer: Note the following series of quotes from The Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2011:

Rambling, Pretentious Vocabulary and Casual Style.
“While M.B.A. students' quantitative skills are prized by employers, their writing and presentation skills have been a perennial complaint. Employers and writing coaches say business-school graduates tend to ramble, use pretentious vocabulary or pen too-casual emails.”

De-Emphasized Writing Instruction
“Sharon Washington, executive director of the National Writing Project in Berkeley, Calif., says U.S. high schools and undergraduate programs have de-emphasized writing instruction, and constant digital communication may be eroding writing skills.”

Incomprehensible and Colorless
“Former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Arthur Levitt, long an advocate of ‘plain English’ in business and government, says business writing is usually incomprehensible to readers. ‘It lacks color and nuance, and it's not terribly interesting to read,’ he says.”

Complicated Rather Than Simple Words
“M.B.A. students often have to unlearn bad behavior, such as using complicated words over simple ones, says Carter Daniel, business communication programs director at Rutgers Business School. Students might use the word "edifice" instead of ‘building,’ for example.”

Don’t Get to the Point Soon Enough
Students rarely get to the point, says Bruce Clark, writing coordinator for the M.B.A. program. "The first sentence should begin with, 'The single most important issue here is.' You'd be amazed how few students do that," he says.

English Department Writing Instruction
—Jan Lystad

Need to Address Multiple Audiences
“M.B.A. students are often challenged when they have to adapt their writing for multiple audiences, says Keisha Smith, global head of recruiting for investment bank Morgan Stanley.”

Value Speech over Writing
“Not all students view writing coaching as important. When Cornell University's Johnson Graduate School of Management offered a choice of electives to its executive M.B.A. students, it offered a writing class, as well as an oral communication class. While students jumped at the speech class, not enough students signed up for the writing class for the school to offer it, says Douglas Stayman, associate dean for M.B.A. programs.”

Comment: English department writing instruction: Too much literature and not enough writing for different purposes and audiences. RayS.

Title: “Students Struggle for Words: Business Schools Put More Emphasis on Writing Amid Employer Complaints.” Diana Middleton. Wall Street Journal. March 3, 2011. Internet.

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