Two things that I try to help my students understand at Curry College, where I head our Communication Department’s Public Relations Concentration, are (a) that there are any number of great entry-level positions out there that they are fully capable of getting and (b) that they will blow their chance of getting one of those positions with sloppy writing…as in cover letters, resumes, LinkedIn profiles, etc.
Particularly for those troops who harbor some insane notion of diving into the public relations profession, correct writing…spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization…is paramount.
I wrote about this just recently, and I very likely will be ranting many more times throughout the course of spring semester. I hasten to add that producing compelling content is right up there with this, but today I’m focusing on the write right rite.
The misconception appears to still live that “someone else will find my mistakes and correct them.”
WRONG, Grasshopper! Or, actually, CORRECT!
BUT…you’re not going to get that lusted-after internship, first-job interview, anticipated promotion…or (horror of horrors!) a good grade in the course you’re taking with me…if you continue to crank out error-laden copy.
Clients/bosses are not impressed by the speed with which you craft a message filled with mistakes. Nor, I would argue, should teachers be, although I continue to be baffled by some remarks I hear… “Oh, well. He/she is just learning communication skills.”
To quote “M*A*S*H” Commander Colonel Sherman T. Potter, “Horse* hockey.”
(*Note: Shout-out to my eagle-eyed compatriot, Philip Tate, for noticing that I had mistakenly said “Bull hockey.” Thank heavens for keen editorial eyes!!)
We’re in college, sports fans, and we should not be “just learning communication skills.” We (read “you”) should be perfecting communication skills.
It’s called “A.T.D.”…Attention To Detail…and it’s what differentiates the “professional” from the “wannabe.”
So the next time you put fingers to keyboard, ask yourself… “Do I want to sound like I’m really the next great PR Account Executive? Or do I really want to continue getting ‘Thanks; No Thanks’ letters when I apply for internships or jobs?”
Now…sit at your computer and start writing…and thinking…and questioning…and double-checking what you’ve just written.
Use…but don’t trust…spellcheck. It’s a good first round of editing, but don’t rely entirely on it.
Then use that historical artifact known as a “dictionary” to double-check those words you’re not sure about.
Finally…learn from your mistakes.
Years ago, I was encouraged by a friend (PR professional) who I really admired and respected to apply for a very cool position working with him. He knew I was starting a search for a new position, and he wanted me to be in the running.
I was using a “form letter” format that (in my mind) covered all the crucial points in my qualifications, changing the names and other job-specific information for each application.
I wanted to impress him with the speed of my response, so I cranked that puppy out immediately and express-mailed (pre-internet days) my stuff to him.
The next day, I re-read my letter to him. And there…in the closing paragraph…it was waiting for me. I had left the previous job application’s company name in this new letter.
Sloppy? Yes. My fault? Totally. Did I learn my lesson? Completely. Did I get called in for an interview? Absolutely NOT.
Lesson learned…read, re-read, and then read again everything you write BEFORE putting in an envelope…or, in today’s terminology, “hitting ‘send.’”
“OppUrtunity” truly does knock but once.
But “OppOrtunity” will come again.
And that’s my “to sense wurth.”