E-mails do not provide adequate writing skills

October 28, 2002|by Rose Rennekamp

In these days of instant communication by cell phones and e-mail, it seems like no one wants to write anymore. E-mail may involve typing words, but the shorthand commonly used can barely qualify as writing. In fact, the use of e-mail may even erode grammar, spelling and sentence structure skills.

Many teens don't recognize that they need solid formal writing skills in college and their careers. Scientists, social workers and salespeople all need to effectively communicate in writing. According to The Education Trust, 17 percent of college freshmen are taking non-credit remedial courses in writing and grammar because they are not prepared for college-level work.

Human resources professionals point out that a large number of resumes are rejected simply because the applicant made numerous mechanical and spelling errors.

There also appears to be a gender gap in writing skills. Females consistently attain higher scores than males on tests of English usage, grammar and mechanics as well as on direct writing assessments. The exact causes of this gender gap are not known, but young women are also much more likely to participate in writing activities outside of the classroom, such as working on a student newspaper.


Is it too late for your teen if he can't seem to write a coherent telephone message? Can she learn to discard all of the bad writing habits that she has picked-up by using e-mail? Don't worry - there are still many ways that you can help your teen become a competent writer.

Encourage reading Studies have shown that children who read and who are read to become better writers. Teens who read the newspaper and books learn more about writing.

Expose your teen to good writing by taking him or her to an author's reading at a bookstore or library. Check out books on tape. By hearing an author read his or her work, your teen can get a feel for sentence structure and word usage.

Encourage everyday writing Buy your teen a journal and help him or her see the value in recording thoughts and feelings. Insist on thank-you notes for gifts and letters to family members. Write notes to each other.

Review homework assignments With your teen's permission, review homework assignments for structural and grammatical accuracy.

Insist on grammatical correctness at home Since grammar used in speaking is reflected in writing, gently correct grammatical errors used in the home.

Support extracurricular writing School newspapers, yearbooks, debate teams and creative writing clubs all offer excellent outlets for improving writing.

Make sure they know keyboarding skills Does typing really have anything to do with becoming a good writer? In today's society you bet. In college, as well as career, typing is an essential skill. To be an efficient writer in our fast-paced world, you simply have to know how to type.

The written word is our most enduring form of communication. Writing skills are important in every facet of our lives. If you help your teens become better writers, they will be more prepared for the future. Someday, they'll thank you for it.

Rose Rennekamp is the vice president of communications for ACT. E-mail Rose at

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