I was searching Gmail for something when I found an old email I sent when I was in college. The attachment included a paper I had written in a statistics class. I was curious, so I read through it.
It was awful. I can’t believe they gave me an “A” for this garbage.
If I wrote anything like this outside of school, it would be pretty much useless. Emails, a book, a flyer, an instruction manual, a conference proposal, a blog post… you name it. Even highly technical writing has to be less insufferable.
I mean, let’s just look at the first sentence:
Due to the company’s interest in catapult performance we designed and performed an experiment to help us understand what factors influence the distance an object is thrown by a catapult.
This would be better said as:
My team has been working on an experiment to help us understand how to improve catapult performance.
It’s shorter, clearer, and more digestible. Sure, the first is technically correct but nobody’s going to want to read it, and that’s a big deal because correct words are worthless if nobody reads them.
I don’t think this paper was an anomaly—I’m pretty sure all my writing was this bad. Which makes me wonder how my teachers let this kind of stuff through.
- Maybe my teacher was incompetent?
- Maybe this kind of writing is par for the course in the research community, even thought it’s bad in other fields.
- Maybe the rest of the class wrote so poorly that by comparison this seemed ok?
- Maybe the teacher justified that it wasn’t their job to grade writing quality… just technical accuracy.
I don’t know. But what I do know, is now that I’m doing more online marketing, my writing is being refined in the fires of the real world. And I sure am glad to finally be receiving a proper education.