An article in the Times reported that “The written English of British undergraduates is significantly worse than that of overseas students. Apparently UK based students make 52.2 punctuation, grammatical and spelling errors per page on average, whereas international students make just 18.8.”
How frightening is that? People who do not know how to write their own language? I know it is true because I come across countless examples at my workshops. Most are of these errors are caused by poor teaching at school. I feel so sorry for students who were taught English at a time when it was fashionable to encourage creative writing and not worry about sentence structure. They were often taught too by teachers who themselves had no real understanding of English Grammar or who were poor at spelling and seemingly not worried by it.
I was recently asked to run a business writing session for a group of Japanese business people who were concerned their written English was not as good as it could be. However it was soon obvious that there was nothing wrong with their English. The fault lay with their English managers who did not understand how to use correct grammar or punctuation. The overseas business people were being given faulty advice on when to use apostrophes, when to use singular or plural endings and how to identify the object and the subject in a sentence. These are all the basics of English which should have been taught at school.
Grammar and punctuation are not difficult to learn as an adult. The reward for learning is to know that when you use English correctly and concisely you can be sure your message is being understood by your customers and staff alike.
Charlotte Mannion is a director of Quicklearn and specialises in teaching Business Writing skills. Workshops include using Emails effectively, writing well structured Reports which people want to read and making sure Minutes from meetings are a true reflection of what was discussed.