Telling teens why good writing matters: the point that hits home

If you have teenage relatives you’ll probably know that they clam up like, er, clams, when you tell them why writing matters. Mainly they regard “proper” writing as a pain in the posterior. What’s wrong with leaving apostrophes out? Using the latest Instagram jargon? Speaking and writing in hip terms everyone who’s anyone in rap, metal and other such contemporary cultures knows and appreciates?

Telling teens why good writing matters: the point that hits home

When you apply for a job, most of the CVs/résumés on the recruiter’s desk will have mistakes in them. If yours doesn’t, it will stay at the top of the pile. Then, guess what?

As you’d expect, with my own son (poor kid) I hammered the need for correct spelling, punctuation, grammar and syntax into his head before he could walk. These days I’m a little more gentle with teens, but the metaphorical slap-in-yer-face still works. Read on …

To start, you need to get it across to youngsters why business matters

Among the various voluntary things I do, one is particularly close to my heart. It’s called Career Work Out sessions, run by an amazing charity called Worktree, here in my neck of the woods in south central England.

As they say on their website …

“We are an employability education charity helping young people succeed in work by engaging employers in their education. For 20 years we have developed and delivered work related learning services in Milton Keynes including work placements and a work-based ‘school without walls’ for disengaged 14-16 year olds.  Now we focus locally on introducing every young person to 50 guests from the world of work and developing facilitators to do the same nationally and internationally (recently Africa, China and India).”

The Career Work Out sessions provide … “first-hand careers information. Volunteer work guests visit the classroom and young people simply ask them questions about their personal experiences of work. We deliver two types: Primary WorkOut is a carousel of class-group interviews with work guests for 9-14 year olds. Career WorkOut is a carousel of individual or small group interviews with work guests for 14-19 year olds.”

And then you try to communicate to youngsters why good writing matters

As a regular “guest” in the Worktree program, I present myself as a “business writer.” Despite my recent self-promotion to the lofty title of “content strategist,” there is never enough time in these swift encounters with students to explain that one.

Many of the teenage students express an interest in what I do – mostly those who are interested in English and Media Studies.

But then you get the types who either don’t know what they want to do, or else see their future lying in the sciences, sports, and even business.

Mention writing to these kids, and you can see their eyes glaze over and wander hopefully down to their smartphones.

So what gets their attention about why good writing matters?

Here’s what I say to them. And unless they are “trust fund” kids who never will have to worry about money for their whole lives (we don’t have many of those in Milton Keynes, England…) this one wakes them up.

When you apply for a job, most of the CVs/résumés on the recruiter’s desk will have mistakes in them. If yours doesn’t, it will stay at the top of the pile. Then, guess what?

Here I point out to them that not only do recruiters pick up on mistakes in CVs/résumés, but some also have a major problem with such mistakes given that so many applicants make them…which suggests that they are sloppy, incompetent and uncaring. If you fall into the latter category, your prospects are on their way downhill from here on.

Ergo, if you want to get the job, get your writing right, because good writing matters.

Sometimes I wonder if these kids are just paying lip service to what I have told them, but I don’t think so. You can tell from their facial expressions and body language that whereas their minds might have been elsewhere during the previous few minutes, this issue has made them think.

I sure hope so, because that’s why I do my bit for this charity.

Good writing matters – not because it’s arty or PC, but because it’s an essential stepping stone to success

Do you agree?

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