As students of journalism we have heard over and over from professors and lecturers that collectively writing skills have worsened over the years. Bad writing is killing America.
But perhaps it is the disappearance of another R that is plaguing the world of communication. The plight of Gen Y might possibly be the slow disappearance of the act of Reading.
In a fast paced world where we have trained ourselves to communicate in 140 key strokes or less, we have come to expect that less is more–the shorter the article, the better. The shorter the text book chapter, the better. We have grown up procrastinating, not reading chapters, reading spark notes instead of books, and congratulating ourselves, even bragging when we finish an assignment without having done all the work.
Perhaps our suffering writing skills have been cultivated by our lack of reading.
According to an article released by CBS in 2007, studies showed that “only 52 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24, the college years, read a book voluntarily,” a 7 percent drop from 2002. Furthermore, “the number of adults with bachelor’s degrees and “proficient in reading prose” dropped from 40 percent in 1992 to 31 percent in 2003.”
In the last ten years, the U.S. has witnessed a dramatic drop in reading and reading proficiency, and the effects of this are easy to see. Answer this: how many of us have answered emails from students who have failed to read the assignment, the syllabus, your previous email? I bet not one person could deny that they’ve witnessed at least one of these on at least one occasion.
Reading is a dying art and I would be willing to bet that if our generation stopped finding gratification in cutting corners and reading more often, writing skills would improve.
What this means for us as future PR professionals is that we truly need to pay attention to this trend and try to correct it in ourselves. Much of our job will be scanning publications for trends and news that could effect a client. We will be reading. A lot.
It is important to cultivate your reading skills (and of course your writing skills) because it will not only make you a better PR practitioner, it will make you even more intelligent than the other 58 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds out there who don’t read and are competing for your jobs.
Read a book for fun once in a while. Read ANYTHING. Just. Read.