New grad hires need help to hit the ground running

Karen Commons | May 2, 2017

Graduates need business writing training as soon as they arrive in their new workplaces. Otherwise, they won’t be able to contribute fully or reward the investment.

How could this be? Surely all those years of writing at uni should pay off.  Well no. In fact, in many cases, the more uni, the more serious the problem. Someone with a PhD often has a more difficult time shaking their ingrained academic writing habits.

Students often believe good writing should look a certain way

Years of reading academic texts often creates an impression that good writing needs long sentences and sophisticated language. Many students will spend their years at uni trying to live up to this impression. And once they’ve perfected this complex style of writing, they’ll find the shift to reader-friendly plain language challenging. In fact, they won’t even know that they need to make this shift.

Image, Student in a library.

Students sometimes make assumptions about writing based on what they read. Image by Redd Angelo / CC0

Academic writing is different from business writing

Most academic writing has one purpose: to pass the course. The goal is to prove to the marker that you can research, think critically, and present an articulate, logical argument. This is an appropriate goal for an academic environment. However, this goal means that academic writing is likely to be writer-centred, rather than reader-centred. In fact, the academic writer doesn’t need to think much about their reader. Their reader is almost always the same. It’s the marker.

Business writing needs different skills

Good business writers understand that documents vary enormously depending on purpose, desired outcome, and reader. Good business writers will brainstorm these elements every time they write a new document. Then they’ll write in a style that fits.

If no one gives new grads the skills of this new business writing game, they’ll keep playing their old game of academic writing. They’ll need a lot more help from seniors, and they’ll be disappointed when their work always comes back with changes. All because no one told them the game had changed!

Do your grads need to learn new skills?

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