I was blown away by the reaction of students in my career strategies class this week. Upon receiving corrected copies of a simulated agency writing test that they took following an information-packed lecture by Edelman word guru Tim Schellhardt, a majority of students said they wanted more such tests. More tests? I can’t recall a moment in my college life when I wanted more tests, but I plan to comply with their wise desire to improve essential writing skills.
In addition to rewriting an overly complex, error-ridden business memo, students had to select the right words on a grammar and vocabulary quiz. Here are a few examples of the types of questions you might expect on an agency writing test:
GRAMMAR (Circle the correct word)
Do you want to go to the PRSA regional conference with Jose and I / me?
Regular reading newspapers, magazines and blogs can have a positive effect / affect on your career.
Can you determine whose / who’s attending the staff meeting tomorrow?
The entire client team, except for Caitlin and Tim, were / was at the new launch preparation meeting.
VOCABULARY (Circle the best meaning for the word)
Assimilate A. absorb B. verify C. assign D. depend
Expedite A. accelerate B. isolate C. resolve D. refurnish
Initiative A. enterprising B. friskiness C. given D. hassle
Industrious A. luxurious B. skillful C. justify D. difficult
Strong writing skills are detected early in any public relations position, so having the basic skills is expected of employees at all levels. Unfortunately, many elementary and high schools don’t do an adequate job of teaching grammar, vocabulary, spelling and writing. While the foundation of good writing should have been established before college, it’s still possible to improve on this essential skill before entering the professional world. Like the way my class responded, students should seek out opportunities to improve these skills. Talk with instructors, take an elective course in business writing and visit writing centers that exist on most college campuses. In addition, search for helpful online writing tips such as the Quick 50 Writing Tools from the Poynter Institute’s Roy Peter Clark.
“The ability to write well, which signals that you know how to think well, may be the most important factor in moving up the career ladder, especially in communications,” Tim Schellhardt told my students. “Studies and research underscore that strong writing contributes to job applicants getting hired and then promoted faster. Of course, I tie good writing with good editing and good grammar skills.”
(Quiz Answers: Grammar–me, effect, who’s, was. Vocabulary–A, A, A, B).