From Signs and Signals to
Artifacts and Assumptions:
A Student of Management Observes
Communication Culture in Los Angeles
Wayne Smith, Ph.D.
Department of Management
CSU Northridge
[email protected]
Motivation at the
Academic-level
• Middleton, D. (2011), “Students Struggle for Words”, Wall
Street Journal, Mar 3. B8
• Schools
– Stanford, Berkeley, Northeastern, Rutgers, Cornell, Univ. of Penn
– Students are having trouble with multiple writing issues (e.g., sometimes
too casual, sometimes not concise, sometimes not valuing writing at all)
• Firms
– Booz –Allen Hamilton, Morgan Stanley, General Mills
– Need to train or re-train professionals on how to communicate
• GMAT
– The writing scores on this exam have dropped in the past three years
(this could possibly be due to the number of international students)
• But the WSJ should come and see the high quality of the
written work submitted by my students!
Motivation at the
Organization-level
•
Ramstad, E. (2008), “CEO Broadens Vistas at LG”, Wall Street Journal, May 21.
B1
•
SUMMARY: LG is a [very large, Korean] company in transition thanks to the
efforts of its CEO Yong Nam. The company is trying to reinvent itself as a
21st century multinational. This requires a major shift in the corporate
culture to encourage employees to ask tough questions. Another shift is the
use of English as the company's language. The goal of the company is to
become a global powerhouse in appliances and electronics.
•
WSJ: You're requiring English to be used more at headquarters and to talk to
the rest of the organization. Why?
•
Mr. Nam: English is essential. The speed of innovation required to compete in
the world mandates that we must have seamless communication. We cannot
depend on a small group of people who are holding the key to all
communication throughout the world. That really impedes information
sharing and decision-making. I want everybody's wisdom instead of just a
few.
Motivation at the
Professional-level
• Beason, L. (2001), “Ethos and Error: How Business People
React to Errors”, College Composition and Communication, 53
(1), Sep.
• 1. He provided sample writing errors to businesspeople.
• 2. He then classified the “responses and images of the writer”
• Error Category I: image of writer as a writer
– Hasty, careless, uncaring, or uninformed
• Error Category II: image of writer as a business person
– Faulty thinker, not a detail person, poor oral communicator,
poorly educated person, or sarcastic/pretentious/aggressive
• Error Category III: image of writer as a representative
– Can’t represent the company to customers and/or can’t
represent the company in court
Most Widely Spoken Languages (numbers in millions)
Number of
First
Language
Speakers
Number of
Second
Language
Speakers
Total Number
of Speakers
English
340
1,000
1,340
Chinese
873
178
1,051
Hindi
370
120
490
Spanish
360
60
420
Russian
167
110
277
Arabic
206
24
230
Portuguese
203
10
213
Bengali
207
4
211
23
140
163
126
1
127
German
95
28
123
French
65
50
115
Language
Indonesian
Japanese
Source: Meyer, C. (2009), Introducing English Linguistics, Cambridge University Press.
Some Errors Beyond the
Reach of Current Technology
• Hacker, D., and Sommers, N. (2011), “A Writer’s Reference 7th
ed.”, Bedford/St. Martin’s
• “[Current word processors have difficulty with]…writing
context and culture, appropriate style of discourse, degree of
‘assertiveness,’ faulty parallelism, misplaced and dangling
modifiers, homonyms, missing words and omitted verbs,
shifts in verb tense or mood, coordination and subordination,
sentence variety and fragments, run-on sentences, common
redundancies, unnecessary wordiness, jargon and
abbreviations, clichés, sexist language, irregular verbs,
pronoun agreements and references, missing or misused
commas, semi-colons, apostrophes, hyphens, quotation
marks, capitalization, and problems with emphasis.”
Lunsford, A., and Lunsford, K. (2008), “Mistakes Are a Fact
of Life: A National Comparative Study”, College
Composition and Communication, 59 (4), Jun. p. 795
Rank Error or Error Pattern
1.
Wrong word
2.
3.
4.
Missing comma after intro. element
Incomplete or missing documentation
Vague pronoun reference
5.
6.
7.
Spelling error (including homonyms)
Mechanical error with a quotation
Unnecessary comma
8.
9.
10.
Unnecessary or missing capitalization
Missing word
Faulty sentence structure
Lunsford, A., and Lunsford, K. (2008), “Mistakes Are a Fact
of Life: A National Comparative Study”, College
Composition and Communication, 59 (4), Jun. p. 795
Rank Error or Error Pattern
11. Missing comma w/ nonrestrictive ele.
12.
13.
14.
Unnecessary shift in verb tense
Missing comma in a compound sent.
Unnecessary or missing apostrophe
15.
16.
17.
Fused (run-on) sentence
Comma splice
No pronoun-antecedent agreement
18.
19.
20.
Poorly integrated quotation
Unnecessary or missing hyphen
Sentence fragment
Punctuation – mult.
Errors
2
Language Use Errors
1. Possessive
pronoun form
exception
2. Parallel inflection
3. Comma splice
4. Missing definite
article
5. Wrong Word
6. Pluralized
Adjective
“The Bottom Line”
• --. (2004), “Writing: A Ticket to Work or a Ticket Out, A
Survey of Business Leaders,” National Commission on Writing,
Sep.
– http://www.writingcommission.org/prod_downloads/writingcom/writing
-ticket-to-work.pdf
• Summary Excerpts
– “Writing is a ‘threshold skill’ for both employment and
promotion, particularly for salaried employees.”
– “People who cannot write and communicate clearly will not be
hired and are unlikely to last long enough to be considered for
promotion.”
• Costs
– “Based on the survey responses, it appears that remedying
deficiencies in writing may cost American firms as much as $3.1
billion annually.”
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Signs and Signals: Management in and around Los Angeles