A Need for Better Writing Education and Standards for Hiring Writers

A few days ago, I posted a piece listing down the things some writer applicants do wrong. It ended up being popular – I’m not sure if it’s because some people wanted to see if THEY were making those same mistakes or if it’s because they are, like me, frustrated folk who have to deal with this kind of thing on a regular basis. Whatever the case, the sheer number of views this post ended up with had me wondering WHY there are so many folks out there who keep making these mistakes.

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Not enough writing exercises in school? (Photo credit: woodleywonderworks)

Lack of Opportunities

My sister, who has always been astute, pointed out that it’s probably because many people lack the training that we (this includes my nuclear family and my friends) had the privilege of having while growing up. She is, as usual, probably right. Not everyone has had the benefit of growing up with a love of reading – which I think definitely helps you “develop an ear” for the rhythms of the written language – and not everyone has had the luck of getting decent Language teachers over the course of their elementary education.

Come to think of it, my siblings and I even lucked into having a father who was more comfortable communicating in English rather than Tagalog – which means we likely had more exposure to it than many of the people we grew up with. Love of reading, my dad, and the teachers who supported my obsession with the written word while I was at school likely helped me become the competent English language writer that I am today. Those three combined trained my brain to think in terms of the written word, to think in terms of grammatical standards, to think with a sense of fairly logical sentence and paragraph structures.

Other people do NOT have the opportunities I had. BUT THEY SHOULD.

Lack of Real Interest

Of course, there is also the matter of being ABLE to appreciate what you are actually learning in school.

I understand that learning a second language, one that you don’t normally use, can be incredibly frustrating for a lot of young people. Terrorizing them, as some teachers are prone to do, does not help – it just makes them resent the heck out of the educator and the subject. On the other hand, being lax with them is just as bad – letting certain things slide or not strictly emphasizing the value of a lesson leads some students to think that there is nothing to improve. Either way, the results are the same: you end up with people who fail to understand how a good grasp of language, ESPECIALLY the English language (I’m sorry, Filipino language supporters, but it’s TRUE), can help them find tons of opportunities in an increasingly globalized work market.

All this because people’s lack of interest in learning is exacerbated by the educational systems‘ lack of interest in finding ways to teach more effectively.

Lack of Implementation of Standards

While I understand that there are employers out there who are strapped for cash and are thus more willing to accept applicants that are far less than stellar, I also have to point out that some employers also hire unskilled  professionals because they actually don’t know the difference between good writing and bad writing.

Whether this is a result of a dismal educational system or of a person’s unwillingness to admit his or her shortcomings on this front is unclear to me at this point. Either way, this sends some people the message that quality isn’t quite so important when trying to make money as a writer. In fact, the demand of many locally-run writing agencies is that an employee increase the quantity of the articles written per day (probably because most of them are, effectively, content farms more concerned with creating a high number of links instead of ensuring a high conversion rate – but that’s another gripe I should discuss at another time).

I guess the reason why this gets in my craw is because this encourages people to NOT improve their writing skills. There aren’t even any feedback protocols in place that force people to write better. We should really work on enforcing standards.

I am, of course, discussing this in the context of my home country, the Philippines. I’m not sure how much of this applies to other countries. But I hope in my heart of hearts that things would change, that I could figure out a way to make feasible and long-lasting improvements to the way some people think of writing for money. It’s not just because I believe that this requires a certain level of artistry; it’s also because I understand that this is more than just an art. This is a craft. This requires artisanship and a boatload of respect for what one is trying to do or communicate.

It breaks my heart that many don’t take this seriously when they should.

All I can do for now is help my company get writers with the right attitude, and try to improve my own writing.

And drink vodka. Drinking vodka REALLY helps sometimes.

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