Anthony, a Teens in Print Summer Journalism student, interviews Shelia Green of The Castle Group at a job shadow day in 2016.

By Jake Murray 

In the age of technology – from the Internet of Things, augmented and virtual reality, to artificial intelligence – is the skill of writing losing its importance? Are coding skills the new coin of the realm? Is proficiency in engineering, life sciences, and data analytics what opens doors to jobs? If so, why focus on writing at all?

As it turns out, when it comes to future career success, writing – the ability to clearly and coherently convey ideas and information – is still king. While many employers seek ‘hard’ or technical skills, foundational or ‘soft’ skills like effective writing and communication are in greater demand.

Wanted: Strong Writers

The studies are in – and while science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills are growing in significance in the workplace, writing still remains among the most desired skills by employers. Analysis of 25 million online job postings from over 40,000 sources by the workforce research firm Burning Glass Technologies found that, across all jobs, 1 in every 3 skills requested were soft skills. Among soft skills, the highest sought after across all sectors and jobs were communication, writing, and organizational skills. This was true even for jobs typically associated with technical skills, such as those in the IT, engineering, and health-care sectors.

A 2016 report on future workforce skills and preparedness commissioned by PayPal found that only half of over 60,000 employers surveyed felt that recent graduates possessed crucial job-preparedness skills. And the skill most commonly lacking? Not technical skills, but writing. Forty-four percent of employers reported that writing proficiency was most absent among recent college graduates, followed by public speaking (with 39% of employers reporting this skill as missing).

At the same time, writing and technical skills need not be considered distinct. A recent eSchool News article, for example, outlined the correlation between writing proficiency and coding/tech proficiency. The article cited the need for good writing skills to design effective, intuitive user interfaces and to establish clear language between machines and users as AI advances. 

Contributing the Most Value 

Yet while studies are helpful, so too is personal experience. As an organizational leader for 15 years who has hired, supervised, and promoted dozens of employees, I reflexively looked for strong writers. These have been the staff who offered the most value. Through their writing, they demonstrated the ability to organize information, reason and problem solve, reflect, share ideas, success, and challenges, and communicate clearly and effectively to colleagues, business partners, and funders.

So before K-12 and post-secondary educators put away those composition books and assign less writing, they should think again. Writing is still a powerful gateway skill to career success. I know I’ll be looking for the strongest writers the next time I need to hire someone.


Jake Murray is Faculty Director for Professional Education at ‎Boston University’s School of Education and host of “Power of Good,” a podcast series that highlights the work of people doing great things, caring things, often life-saving things for other people. He’s also co-founder of WriteBoston, former Chair of WriteBoston’s Board of Directors, and a current Board member.