conciseness in student writing?

I’m reading through my students’ individual portfolios, and I am amazed with how many students mention (in their reflection letter to me) that they feel they are doing a better job of being concise than they were at the start of the term. Of course, a key component of business writing is conciseness, but I don’t feel like I’ve addressed that well at all. In fact, if there is any aspect of business writing that I feel like I’ve dropped the ball on, I’d say it’s conciseness. It’s definitely something that I want to address more later this term as students are working on their group projects, and something I’m going to try to address more early on next term.

So I’m pretty surprised that my students seem to continually bring it up. I wouldn’t say it’s something that I’ve noticed a great deal of improvement in from many students, and if I haven’t addressed it, then where are these claims coming from? I have two hypotheses:

1. Conciseness is a commonplace for business writing. Students expect to be learning how to write more concisely, so they believe it is being addressed or that they are improving on it, even if they aren’t.

2. Conciseness is a commonplace for business writing. Some students are feeding me what they think I want to hear.

Don’t get me wrong. Some students have improved in this area. I’m reading less “poetic” sentences and less overly wordy sentences than I was at the beginning of the term. But I’m still surprised with the number of students who mention it.

And that second one is probably coming from some cynicism and frustration after having read so many portfolios. I’m exhausted.

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2 Responses to conciseness in student writing?

  1. dawn says:

    Do you think it is due to the comments you make on their papers? I have noticed that if I pay attention to what is being written on my submissions, then I tend to be more concise (although, in my case, I have been told I’m too concise sometimes).

  2. Michael says:

    That’s a good question — and why I didn’t consider it, I don’t know. Perhaps I was cranky.

    Yes, I have left many marginal notes regarding wordiness in some specific sentences, but I don’t think that explains the overall trend. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

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