"University students can't write decent English."

This Independent report that undergraduates cannot “write, spell or present an argument” seems to me to make a strong case for a bit of Latin for all schoolchildren. Such failings as writing sentences that lack a verb would be dealt with in short measure. Spelling would be helped. Those who took Latin beyond the most elementary stage would be exposed to arguments, how to construct them and how to counter them.

Unive[r]sity students: They can't write, spell or present an argument

No, these aren't university rejects, but students at prestigious establishments. Poets and authors are blowing the whistle on the scandal of a generation that lacks the basic skills to study for a degree. Hilary Wilce reports

Published: 24 May 2006

University students can't write decent English. Worse, their attempts to do so show that many can't follow a logical train of thought or present a reasoned argument. In fact, growing numbers are not ready for the demands of higher education.

This damning verdict comes from professional writers who have been working with students in universities. They are shocked at what they have found, and have decided to make public a report summarising the full depths of their concerns.

“Most contemporary British students arriving at university lack the basic ability to express themselves in writing,” says the prize-winning biographer Hilary Spurling, launching the report, Writing Matters.

The poet and playwright Michelene Wandor says: “They don't know what a sentence is, what a verb is, what a noun is. They struggle with apostrophes and they often don't know what tense they're writing in.”

The children's author Yvonne Coppard agrees. “Their syntax and grammar are sloppy, they have sentences that draggle all over the place, you can see whole pages without paragraphs, and as for speech punctuation – I don't know what's happened to that!”

Read the whole article.