Students plagued by poor grammar

University students’ writing is plagued by poor grammar and punctuation and a lack of consensus on what constitutes a clear writing style, new Emphasis research has found.

This inaugural research project, which marks the launch of the Emphasis Research Centre, suggests that today’s graduates – the business writers of tomorrow – aren’t being encouraged to write in a clear, straightfoward manner that will serve them (and their future colleagues and clients) best in the world of work.

The results, compiled from an online survey of academics and lecturers from 37 UK universities, reveal a range of problems – from poor grammar and punctuation to an inappropriate style. But the real problem may well be the inconsistent advice handed down from lecturers. The survey reveals a lack of agreement on what constitutes a good writing style: there is a real gulf between the plainer language tutors claim to prefer, and the typically opaque and multi-syllabic language of academia.

So it isn’t the case that the problem is going unrecognised or being ignored. Rather there is just a need for a unified – and uniform – support system. ‘University lecturers are keen to help students overcome worrying deficiencies in their writing,’ says Emphasis CEO, Rob Ashton. ‘But a lack of familiarity with the building blocks of a clear, plain style makes that goal hard to achieve.’

To read the full report on this research, click here.

  • Other research has recently highlighted the link between low levels of literacy and a lack of success in the workplace. The report, published by the National Literacy Trust, found that one in six adults has levels of literacy lower than that expected of an 11-year-old. Two-thirds of men and three-quarters of women with poor reading and writing skills had never received a promotion.

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