I gave a presentation to an association Board on Friday about generational differences. During the discussion, one of the Board members (who had described himself as one of the oldest in the room) made a point that he was concerned about the quality of writing of younger generations. To his credit, he raised it as a question, and he acknowledged he may simply be reflecting his own bias (in other words, he didn’t just trash the younger generations because they didn’t act like he did).
But this topic comes up a lot in generational conflict. Often the millennials are chastised for their use of "texting" language in their writing—shorter forms of sentences, or even abbreviations (OMG!). I think it is often a biased criticism, because millennials never claimed that texting language was the epitome of writing quality—it simply works for texting (there was an article about this about which I blogged in November). On the other hand, I think you can make a solid argument that writing quality, by traditional standards, has been declining over time.
And all of this ties into a recent post from Seth Godin, and appropriately enough I can quote the whole post right here:
Don’t let the words get in the way. If you’re writing online, forget everything you were tortured by in high school English class. You’re not trying to win any awards or get an A. You’re just trying to be real, to make a point, to write something worth reading.
So just say it.
There may be something to the argument that writing quality is declining, but you can’t make that argument while ignoring the fact that the AMOUNT that is being written has grown exponentially. When the volume of global writing was smaller, the "quality" of the writing meant more. We have so much more written information that we are faced with on our world, and that’s why Godin is arguing for us to make it clearer, more direct, and maybe even less eloquent.
We are competing for attention these days. Do you want your writing to sound perfect, or do you want people to read it? Is that a generational issue?