Communications / Personal

The Return of the Scribes

This morning I read Verlyn Klinkenborg’s NY Times piece on writing. Actually, it focuses on writing well.

She observes that today’s students believe they communicate well, in her words “clear, direct, humane.” Klinkenborg notes our society has lost an appreciation of the humanities. Students, migrate to majors that will lead to high-paying careers – and steer clear of courses that don’t build a resume.

The writer reminds us that studying the humanities is a gift of “clear thinking, clear writing and a lifelong engagement with literature.” Clarity is a critical value in the business world, yet colleges keep honing and creating highly specialized majors that minimize, or avoid, coursework in the humanities

Today’s business world is filling positions with young executives that cannot effectively write an email, memo or letter. Many of the graduates of the past decade are moving into management positions. They are supervising and they are hiring today’s graduates. Young graduates who spend the majority of there time writing in abbreviated code.

Public relations firms and advertising agencies struggle with youthful interns who have little or no experience in longform writing. Narrative structure, articles and whitepapers are virtually unknown to most.

There are predictions that scribes will return to commercial and industrial work. Just as ancient monks wrote out scripture and religious teaching, corporate scribes will be employed to pen contracts and proposals and presentations. These scribes won’t merely be employed in PR or marketing departments. They will appear in HR, engineering and operations departments as well.

Within ten years, scribes will return to the workplace. As txting, IM chats and and smartphone apps evolve, effective and concise writing will become more of a lost art.

Those things that become rare, become invaluable.