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Writing Skills (WSJ 3-3-11)

Writing Skills (WSJ 3-3-11) - EXECUTIVE EDUCATION MARCH 3...

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EXECUTIVE EDUCATION MARCH 3, 2011 Students Struggle for Words Business Schools Put More Emphasis on Writing Amid Employer Complaints By DIANA MIDDLETON James Yang Alex Stavros, a second-year student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, had been pitching an eco-tourism luxury resort idea to potential investors for months, but wasn't getting any bites. He noticed that investors lost interest after the first few minutes of his presentation, and were slow to reply to emails. So Mr. Stavros enlisted the help of one of Stanford's writing coaches for six weeks to help streamline his pitch. After the instruction, his pitch was whittled down to 64 words from 113, and he dropped three unnecessary bullet points. "During my consulting career, each slide was a quantitative data dump with numbers and graphs, which I thought proved I had done the work," he says. "Now, my presentations are simpler, but more effective." While M.B.A. students' quantitative skills are prized by employers, their writing and presentation skills have been a perennial complaint. Employers and writing coaches say business-school graduates tend to ramble, use pretentious vocabulary or pen too-casual emails.
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Meanwhile, the Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the Graduate Management Admission Test, says average essay scores on the GMAT fell to 4.4 out of 6 in 2010, from 4.7 out of 6 in 2007. Writing quality is difficult to measure and it's unclear why it may be slipping. According to a
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