Full stop in standards

February 20, 1998

I CAN confirm the findings of the research that supports the decline in the standard of written English (THES, February 13). Over the past five years or so my experience is that the standard of writing (including grammar, spelling and punctuation) has taken a real nosedive.

Students do not take writing skills seriously, do not read work for sense before submitting it and do not note feedback on written work (and subsequently make the same mistakes). I have just marked 35 final-year and postgraduate essays and spent the vast majority of my time correcting writing problems; only one student presented themself for feedback.

Much of the problem stems from lack of tuition at school, the increased pressures on students today (the need to work and the lack of time to do work properly) and the belief that writing skills are unimportant; the use of word-processors with spellcheckers has decreased abilities in spelling.

In the United States there are support facilities in universities providing "writing laboratories", often run by postgraduate students to help the needy. Although I feel the teaching of study skills now seems essential to any degree course, I do not think we as academics should have to take ultimate responsibility for teaching them.

Charlotte Roberts Senior lecturer in biological anthropology University of Bradford

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