Friday, November 5, 2010

Tone Deaf

In her recent article for International Association of Business Communicators, Natalie Canavor laments the fact that Millenials' business writing is "tone deaf."

"Beyond having trouble with basic content and writing mechanics," Canavor says, "many younger people appear to be tone deaf: They may get their point across concisely, but with an abruptness that can offend older folks. And since many clients, board members, major donors and other influentials tend to be older folks, this is risky business indeed."

The disappearance of courtesy in business writing stems from four sources, according to Canavor.

First, busy Millenials have no time for tact, she says. According to a recent survey, they lack all patience for "small talk." For Millenials, communication is about passing along facts.

Second, Millenials are wedded to texting, "which more or less demands an absence of niceties and builds a telegraphic habit."

Third, Millenials are the victims of poor schooling. Canavor cites a conversation with Chicago adman Bob Killian, who blames college deans. The professors spot students' writing errors but are forced to let them stand, Killian claims. "They say the students complain and then the dean tells them that it’s not their job to correct grammar and punctuation—and those students are future donors!”

Finally, Millenials are "skeptical of authority." So courtesy just doesn't come naturally.

Ironically, that makes their writing sound (to me, anyway) pretty darn authoritarian.
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