‘In my day we did things with a pencil and paper so we had to know our times tables, we had to be able to spell and we had to have ”good” handwriting, it was survival.’I got an email this week – ”Hi, i am a student at XYZ University [name removed to protect the guilty]. I’m interested in doing an internship at Marcus Today. Just wondering who or where i can send my CV and Cover letter? Kind Regards ABC”
My reply was: ”Sorry ABC but I’m afraid we cannot accommodate you. Our business is writing and if you are going to cold email for a job in our industry it is probably a good idea to use capitals appropriately. If the email you have sent is anything to go by we would forever be correcting your punctuation. It would also be a good idea to find out who the principal of the company is and address your email to them. ‘Hi’ doesn’t cut it. Punctuation and manners are crucial to a first impression and in our particular industry, essential. I’m afraid you blew it at the first hurdle with this email. Thanks anyway.”
Perhaps I am being too harsh – after all, half the world can’t spell ”liaison” or ”guarantee” these days and the other half use the word ”historical” when they should use ”historic” and type the word ”great” with a number in it.
It’s a generational thing. Take my beautiful daughter for instance.
She has been stuffed through the Victorian education system for the past 15 years and, it would have to be said, struggled with it. In fact I’ll go further, she, and we, have been tortured by it.
For the whole of her school life we and Victoria have been trying to squash her very complex and wonderfully creative and imaginative shape into a very square hole. And their answer for a child tortured by failure in her homework and class work? Torture her even more. Yep, that should do it. Give her even more of what she hates, reading and writing.
I have tried to work out why education isn’t working for her and I think I’ve found the answer. It’s because the Victorian education system is just that, Victorian. It, along with every other state education system, was doubtless designed by people like me, people who didn’t have computers or calculators, iPads or smartphones, the internet, Google, Wikipedia, Facebook or Twitter when they were being educated. I still have a full set of EncyclopaediaBritannica.
I was 12 before I saw my first Sinclair Executive calculator. In my day the HP12C was the stuff of lunar missions. In my day we did things with a pencil and paper so we had to know our times tables, we had to be able to spell and we had to have ”good” handwriting, it was survival.
But these days? Sorry, but I think we need to move on. While memorising times tables might be useful, they are no longer necessary. While having ”good” handwriting might be impressive, all it does is define you as ”old”, and while punctuation may be important to some industries, the truth is that when all the pre-personal computer generation have shuffled through the system and the new education designers are the post-calculator, post-computer and post-internet generations, there will be a new standard of communication that will not be defined in fountain pen script by pedantics but judged on its efficiency and professionalism. No one will give a toss whether you can spell ”liaison” if you are effective.
At the same time, while I rail against the emergence and success of bookies in the finance industry, at the advertisements that suggest you somehow need to be ”taking advantage of trading opportunities on the move” and at advertisements that show 26-year-olds getting out of the back of limousines trading forex on their mobiles, it is the future.
Things move on and I’m sure my daughter will fit in just fine.
But before all you wannabes go out and hire a chauffeur, a word of warning. Unfortunately for you, the spelling and punctuation generation is not dead yet. We are still very much alive and, unfortunately for my emailing intern hopeful, you are still going to come across us at every job-hunting turn and for some years to come you are still going to have to play our game.
It’s not ”Gr8”, I know, but until we’re gone you’re still going to need a dictionary, a suit, a tie and your manners. And by the way, we can spot those American spell checkers a mile away.
Marcus Padley is a stockbroker and author of sharemarket newsletter Marcus Today.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.