B-Schools Focus on Improving MBAs' Crappy Writing

by Vault Education Editors | March 03, 2011

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When you want to refer, in speech, to one of those large structures used to house people or businesses, which word do you use—building or edifice? If you say edifice, you might just be an MBA.

Who says edifice? What pretentious diction.  

For too long have business schools ignored the written form. Only, now, it seems to have become a problem, according to the WSJ. Presentations have become ear-gougingly boring, alienating potential investors. Employers are complaining about graduates’ poor writing skills, resulting in fewer hires.  The state of written communication in our business schools is decidedly weak.

Corporate speak, or bizspeak, office lingo, biz babble, corporatese—it goes by many names (has many heads!)—is jargon and cant more concerned with euphemistic and sterilized expression than with clarity, brevity or anything approaching precision. And some business schools, responding to annoyed employers, are making changes so students learn to avoid it in their writing.

The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania plans to double its communication coursework to 12 classes starting in 2012. Last fall, all first-year students competed in a mandatory writing competition, which asked students to write short pieces in response to prompts. It will become a fixture in the new curriculum.

The University of Rochester's Simon Graduate School of Business hired two writing coaches last fall after employers complained about graduates' writing skills, says dean Mark Zupan.

And Northeastern University's College of Business Administration also ramped up its focus on writing instruction last fall: Many students' papers are now double-graded by the professor and the writing coach.

At the end of the day, it’s nice to know that some schools have come up with a game plan, so that, going forward, graduates will have all their ducks in a row.

(Warren Buffet protip: "Write with a specific person in mind. When writing Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report, I pretend that I’m talking to my sisters. I have no trouble picturing them: Though highly intelligent, they are not experts in accounting or finance. They will understand plain English, but jargon may puzzle them. My goal is simply to give them the information I would wish them to supply me if our positions were reversed. To succeed, I don’t need to be Shakespeare; I must, though, have a sincere desire to inform. No siblings to write to? Borrow mine: Just begin with “Dear Doris and Bertie.")

[WSJ]

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