“What We Learn from Writing on the Job”

What We Learn from Writing on the Job is an article by Lester Faigley and Thomas P. Miller in College English, Vol. 44, No. 6. (Oct., 1982), pp. 557-569.

I read this article in 1994. Below is my review at the time:

“What We Learn from Writing on the Job” did not tell me much that I did not already know. Having taught business and professional writing at the university level for the last five years, I have read this article before and used a similar study done by IBM to acquaint my students with the necessity of writing on the job. I had forgotten the high percentage of collaboration and the different types of writing done by the average in-house writer, so those numbers were interesting to re-read.

It’s been fourteen years since I last wrote it and I have not taught business writing since then, except for one not-so-great interview experience.

So I thought I would re-read it.

Here are my new thoughts:

The article discusses issues that were certainly relevant in the 80s, a lack of study on writing at work, for example. But this deficiency has been fixed and is no longer a problem.

However, there is one point that is useful for college English teachers and our students:

By the measure of the median the 200 people we surveyed wrote 2.9 letters and memos to persons inside their company or agency and 5.2 letters to persons outside in a given week. Only 17 individuals did not write letters or memos on the job.

This might be something we can share with our students. Writing is necessary, even when you are not an English teacher.

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