There are many more people playing baseball in Sweden these days than were 15 years ago, but how good do you think Swedish baseball is? That occurred to me when I saw the headline on a short New York Times piece, “We are all writers now.” Well, maybe not. (See http://ideas.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/29/we-are-all-writers-now/.)
The headline implies that writing is getting better, but just because more people are putting words on a screen today doesn’t mean the quality of writing is improving. If you dabble in paint for 30 years without ever receiving adequate instruction and guidance, you can call yourself a veteran artist, but your work will give a different impression. Yes, it is terrific that blogs, Web sites, and other outlets give people opportunities to feel more relaxed, more at ease, about expressing their ideas. It does help to get the creative juices flowing, and I hope it makes people more excited about writing. But unless they use the opportunities to practice by thinking about principles and techniques of good writing, then they will continue to write messages and documents that are wordy, unclear, and poorly organized.
American business doesn’t run on “texting”; people need to craft messages that demonstrate their knowledge, their ability to communicate complex ideas, and their leadership.