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[Susan notes: Several people weigh in on writing skills and corporate America.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Re "What Corporate America Cannot Build: A Sentence" (news article, Dec. 7):

As a university professor, I am troubled by the inability of students (and their working counterparts) to differentiate between their off-the-cuff, private e-mail style and public, formal writing. The speed and informality of Internet and mobile messaging, free of proper spelling, grammar, punctuation and syntax, are partly responsible.

But secondary schools and universities are also culpable: workers have managed to graduate without knowing how to write. In secondary schools as well as colleges and universities, writing-based learning is being cut in favor of recall and test-based curriculums.

Schools need to re-emphasize solid analytical reading and writing, usually taught by much-embattled humanities departments. Classes that stress strong, clear writing once again show their value, not just for teaching content but also for building critical skills.

Heather Grossman

Chicago, Dec. 7, 2004

The writer is a visiting assistant professor of art history, University of Illinois at Chicago.

To the Editor:

"What Corporate America Cannot Build: A Sentence" neglects a major source of the lamentable prose of many company employees: the decline of the liberal arts education.

Driven by economic anxieties, both parents and undergraduates often assume that the principal purpose of higher education is preparation for a particular job, which they believe is best accomplished through courses specifically tailored to that field. But my literature classes, like my colleagues' courses in history, philosophy and so on, are not mere frills. Rather - in addition to all its other vital functions - a liberal arts education teaches skills in reading, writing and thinking that, as your article demonstrates, are crucial to any number of jobs.

Heather Dubrow

Madison, Wis., Dec. 7, 2004

The writer is a professor of English, University of Wisconsin.

To the Editor:

"What Corporate America Cannot Build: A Sentence" makes several correct comments about the dismal quality of communication skills and commerce.

It should also be noted that reading and writing are inseparable. From this, we can extrapolate a lesson for corporate America and the country in general - read so that you can write. The positive effect of clear, concise written communication is obvious; the opposite may catalyze inadvertent negative consequences.

Bebe Lavin

Bexley, Ohio, Dec. 7, 2004

The writer teaches reading and writing skills to employed adults.

To the Editor:

Your photo of the writing instructor in front of a PowerPoint presentation captures nicely the reason that good writing is increasingly rare today. Bullet points have replaced the use of complete sentences and carefully constructed paragraphs. Sadly, this is true not only of the corporate world, but the academy as well.

Peg Birmingham

Chicago, Dec. 7, 2004

The writer is an associate professor of philosophy, DePaul University.

To the Editor:

Every five or 10 years, you publish an article about corporate writing concerns. But nothing changes because corporations don't really care.

I have given hundreds of programs over 23 years for companies in New England and their employees. Senior managers pay no attention to the programs before, during or after they take place. They spend some money and hope it works.

The individuals believe that they've done their part because they showed up for the program.

Richard Reynolds

Storrs, Conn., Dec. 7, 2004

To the Editor:

If corporate America has trouble managing sentences, then no wonder it has trouble managing itself.

Jason Lott

Philadelphia, Dec. 7, 2004

multiple authors

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