Ask Jennifer Shade Wilson, Director of Rice University's Center for Written, Oral and Visual Communication (CWOVC) how important great communication skills are for success and she may tell you that they are, in a word, incalculable.
Indeed, the ability to speak persuasively and write with clarity is so important that Rice opened the CWOVC last year to provide continuing guidance to students and business professionals seeking to improve their written and spoken communication skills, both critical elements of academic and professional success.
In an age of social networking where reading and writing skills are on the decline nationwide and informal communication is the order of the day, it is high time for a program like Rice's CWOVC that seeks to help students and professionals become competent, professional communicators.
Our common language in the United States is full of so much junk. We express our ideas with colloquialisms, meaningless adages, extraneous verbiage, street talk, text-talk and job-related jargon.
Many students write academic papers like they are talking to their friends and social acquaintances. Some even use what can be considered 'text-speak', employing acronyms or other abbreviated text popular in social networking circles such as LMAO, LMFAO, and LOL to express feelings and ideas in academic papers!
While students may understand the point they are making, the reader must sift through the garbage to find the meaning the author intended to convey. Most readers will simply dismiss the material rather than take valuable time to search for a hidden meaning in the grammatical rubble.
Learning to be a competent communicator is an essential ingredient of college education, so much so that Texas colleges and universities generally require students to take at least one course in speech communication or public speaking as part of the core curriculum.
Speaking and writing for effect are skills that will follow you for life and, in many instances, will determine whether or not an employer finds your services useful. While most of us like to think that we are paid for the knowledge and technical skills we can offer an employer, we must also consider that we are being paid to clearly and accurately express our ideas to colleagues and customers.
But don't take my word for it. Read job postings and you will discover that the ability to speak and write clearly and accurately in oral and written communication forms are critical to the success of companies and therefore, to your future success as well.
As a useful, warm and accessible guide to developing good writing skills, buy a copy of William Zinsser's classic, Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction and refer to it often. It is not only part of this communication professor's personal library but also a permanent fixture in his briefcase and smartphone.
In this day of many words and a lot of confusion, there's never been a more urgent time than now to practice being a competent communicator.