Dem Guv’ment Peeps Don’t Write Good

Here’s an interesting story from the AP:

States spend nearly a quarter of a billion dollars a year on remedial writing instruction for their employees, according to a new report that says the indirect costs of sloppy writing probably hurt taxpayers even more.
The National Commission on Writing, in a report to be released Tuesday, says that good writing skills are at least as important in the public sector as in private industry. Poor writing not only befuddles citizens but also slows down the government as bureaucrats struggle with unclear instructions or have to redo poorly written work.

As a writer, I’m fascinated by the changing nature of language. Thanks to e-mail and the blogosphere, more people are writing–and many are doing it badly. Now, part of that is due to the quick nature of postings and the importance of quick replies, but some people simply never learned how to write clearly and properly in the first place.
Even in ad agency life, which is a communication business, I constantly see correspondence that’s badly written and full of grammar errors. Hey, I’m guilty of it, too. Is there a solution for this? If trends continue, and as hip-hop language becomes more and more influential in society, we may not be able to communicate effectively with anyone in another 10 years.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. mightymaestro says:

    Hey Danny-O,
    Your point is well taken with the exception of your “hip-hop language” comment.
    Before you imply that the culture of HIP-HOP is somehow responsible for the dumbing down of society, perhaps you should examine your history. Hippies, Beatniks, Valley Girls, and Hip-Hop have always incorporated slang into the vernacular. This has always been a binding part of our overall American cultural experience.
    The difference today is the commercialization of Hip-Hop. Advertising and the mass media are responsible for appropriating and spreading the culture out of it’s context to people and places who haven’t a clue about what it represents.
    Got that, Homie?

  2. Yes, mightymaestro, thanks for the 411. I hear your words and yeah, you schooled me, I got served.
    I should have clarified what I meant. I don’t believe hip-hop language represents a dumbing down of our language necessarily, but it, more than any other shift in language, could be the one that really widens a communication problem. It’s not just the slang, per se, it’s the way words seem to be intentionally misspelled and altered. U C what I mean? If there is no standard on what is appropriate for business and/or official government usage, we’ve got problems.
    Oh believe me, I understand American English is ever-changing. Just read some letters from Civil War Generals, (or today, some of the founding fathers’ writings) and it’ll look bizarre to us, too.