Category Archives: Audiences and Literacy

Blog #4: To read or not to read

“The National Center for Educational Statistics defines literacy as the ability to use printed information to function in society, increase knowledge and achieve goals” (Sessoms 2013). Who can really summarize how and what Americans know? How much information can we retain? 87634562

Literacy, another name for “reading”, is a most common skill among Americans in the working class. It gives you a step higher than most people who do not have literacy skills. In my opinion, literacy also goes along with multitasking. We need literacy in order to function at work and/or school. A great example is the ability to read an email, or the ability to read a letter from an employer/employee.

Nowadays, technology has risen steadily in the past decade. With that saying, employers have a great use for employees with literacy skills on the computer. The ability to read and type fast. Moreover, I think literacy is a skill that everyone needs. Almost everything is an item to be read. Almost everything has instructions on how to do this or how to not do this. I think it is a really important skill to touch on.



Sources Cited

Sessoms, Gail. (2013). Effects of illiteracy on business. Chron.

Blog Post #4: Literacy – More Prominent than Ever

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Literacy, the ability to read and write, is a skill that can be applied to any business or workplace situation. Written communication is a major communication modality used to communicate complex ideas through a relatively fast and easy medium. With the rise of internet technology over the past decade the need to write and interpret texts across the internet has called for an increasing need in individual literacy. The role of textual literacy in the 21st century workplace is more prominent than ever.

“Illiteracy costs United States businesses and society at least $225 billion annually because of lost workforce productivity, crime and unemployment” (Sessoms 2013). Illiteracy in the United States is a growing problem with new forms of communication modalities such as and other internet mediums that allow citizens of the United States to acquire information through videos and other non-written forms of communication. Since every form of communication is not found via videos on the internet the need to interpret written texts found outside of these internet platforms is becoming a more pressing issue. Written communication is an everyday occurrence in the workplaces of the United States. My father, a project manager of Macy’s website development team, has to sift through hundreds of emails on a daily basis that consist in written communication. Many other jobs include similar tasks. Even though other forms of communication modalities exist in modern day workplace scenarios, such as oral communication, no other modality thoroughly expresses ideas and information in such a concrete way as written communication. Written communication allows an individual the ability to display information in a specific way that is not replaceable by other forms of communication. This is because written communication allows the user the ability to edit, postulate advanced ideology and cite justification from other written references in an easy and understandable format. Written texts have the ability to last for a longer time than oral communication which can be useful if an individual wants to reference a written text at some point in the future.

In the case of my father, emails consisting of written texts allow for an easy way to understand and respond to any sort of problems that need quick solutions. Written communication allows my father the convenience of understanding quickly what problem he or another person in his development team has encountered and the ability to express clearly and concretely what measures should be used to fix it. If these problems were to pose themselves through another modality of communication such as a video it would take my father a longer time to make a video in response to the problem his team is facing. Fittingly Gail Sessom writes that “Workers who cannot read and interpret basic signs and instructions compromise safety, slow production and cause errors that affect profits” (Sessom 2013). Not being able to read or write in workplace setting can be the decision between whether or not a worker will make a product or deliverable by deadline. If an employee is spending their time interpreting information through a video or audio medium it will take the employee longer to load the video and audio, understand the information and reply to the situation then it would if the information was presented in a written from of communication. In most workplace scenarios written communication is a necessity, no other form of communication modality can display information in such a fast, convenient and proficient way as written communication; therefore, making it one of the most prominent forms of communication in the workplace.


Works Cited:

Sessoms, Gail. (2013). Effects of illiteracy on business. Chron.


Blog Project: Literacy

Literacy is one of the oldest hallmarks of civilization itself. The expansion of literacy rates in the United States is a severe problem confronting both our education systems and our work force structure and it will only prove to be of more critical importance the more different forms of communication come into use. Huffington Post reports sobering stats to the effect that literacy rates over all in the U.S have not budged significantly in over a decade. Partially it is to do with education being unequal over the socio-economic boundaries, but also because of an influx of immigrated workers and their descendants would will prove to be the backbone of much of the work force following baby-boomer retirement. As an English major, I feel literacy is of inexpressible importance in order to function in society.

Back in the days of large family farms and apprenticeships, literacy could be done without. As the economic opportunity expanded into machinery and later still into computers it has become no longer possible to live a decent life with knowing little more than how to read and write your name and a few other things. We are no longer framed in an economic structure that would be able to support vast numbers of workers who are illiterate in capacity because it matters as far as getting ahead is concerned. Especially, coming out of this “Great Recession” things will only get worse if something is not done to boost our education. Overall the vast majority of “middle jobs” have been phased out, rendered obsolete by technology or overseas cost. Gone are the days where an A.A would get you a 30-ish thousand dollar steady employment or a B.A would be considered sufficient education for most jobs.  We live in a society at this point where a good chunk of workers are over qualified for the jobs they have because the higher levels are not open to them for various reasons. If these people remain in these positons, there are even fewer options for those who are illiterate to go to where they can still get by which means, at least for some, and perhaps even a majority, the next stop is the welfare system where the economy will only slow further.

Basic word and print literacy is of primary of course because it is so basic and will likely not go anywhere; However, there are now expanded definitions of literacy because is not literacy an expansion of competency? Computers will also grow increasingly important as time goes on. Knowing how to use them is not the advantage it was back in the 80’s, it is expected. I think it is reasonably safe to say that there are several forms of literacy that school systems and immigration programs alike must strive to teach fluency in beyond computers and print; I wish I could think of another good example but to be honest such literacy might just be so common place to myself, I don’t even realize that I use it. (That mentality in itself being a bit of a problem since I would think a majority have no idea how bad our literacy rates really are and thus don’t know there is a problem to begin with.)

Another blog also pointed out that the lack of a standard definition is one of the many problems surrounding this issue, if not the main one. I agree with this and feel that giving out basic standards for what literacy is, is an extremely important step in trying to rectify the problem. Yes, picture graphs and similar info graphs will suffice for many situations to a certain extent, but it does not and will never match the amount of information that can be conveyed by words themselves.


BLOG POST #4: The importance of being literate

In recent years The United States has witnessed a steady decline in a variety of areas, calling into question our status as the greatest nation on Earth. Indeed, if one looks at any statistics at all, it becomes pretty clear that we rank #1 in almost nothing of importance. According to people who collect reliable data, we come in a paltry 7th place in literacy rates among adults. The United States’ dismal performance in regards to literacy is one of the biggest reasons for our  “declining standing in the world”(Rogers). It is well known that “completing higher levels of education also often provides access to jobs that involve further learning and more information-processing tasks”(OEDC 34). Yet how can people seek ‘higher’ education if they can’t even read?

I work in a sewing shop, which was started by my father, and to be completely honest, I have serious doubts if everyone I work with could be considered traditionally literate. Yet they can sew things for forty hours a week with zero problems. They have what I have decided to term ‘machine literacy.’ In ‘machine literacy,’ my coworkers all score very high marks indeed.

The problem with this, however, is that we cannot hope for our nation to be great if its people all excel at jobs that don’t even require the basic ability to read and write well. Plus, it won’t be long before my father’s shop gets put out of business due to the systematic disregard for humanity in overseas factories. The types of jobs that we need as a nation are those which incorporate a multitude of literacy types, with a heavy emphasis on traditional literacy. By traditional literacy, I simply mean the ability to read and write well. Even in jobs which emphasize non traditional types of literacy such as designing video games or making movies etc, the ability to understand others and to be understood by others is a crucial factor. Yet how do we go about achieving this?

“Beyond formal education, learning occurs in a range of other settings, including within the family, at the workplace and through self-directed individual activity. For skills to retain their value, they must be continuously developed throughout life”(OECD 36). Ultimately, the responsibility lies on individual parents, not the nation as a whole, even though we are all affected negatively by high rates of illiteracy. We should offer free literacy education throughout the country for all age ranges with the caveat that basic privileges such as voting, getting a driver’s license, and procreating should be suspended until one can pass a basic literacy test.

Rogers, Megan. (2013). Troubling stats on adult literacy. Inside Higher Ed.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (2013). OECD Skills Outlook for 2013. First results from the survey of adult skills. OECD Publishing.

Asking The Wrong Questions

It is nearly impossible to determine the role of textual literacy in the 21st century workplace.  This is not because of the supposedly ill-effects of illiteracy on business, but rather, because no standard definition of literacy exists—just standard expectations.  We cannot understand the importance of professional literacy without first examining what it truly means to be literate and what it truly means to be illiterate.

The problem is simple; we do not have a universal definition of literacy, and without one, we cannot hope to understand what role it might play in the success or failure of a business.  All of the most accessible resources that attempt to define literacy contradict each other to an extent, or offer varied information: “According to the National Coalition for Literacy, adult literacy is defined as the ability to use ‘printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.’ The Chicago Literacy organization Literacy Works states that their mission is to ‘fulfill the promise of a basic human right: to read, to write, and interpret the world[…]’ Similarly, fellow organization Open Books states on their website that ‘Literacy skills are life skills, and there is a literary crisis in America’” (CITE).  Instead of asking ourselves why we need our employees to be literature, we should be asking, “But what do we really mean by ‘literacy?’” and trying to understand why, “Most of these adults have some reported reading ability, yet they are not considered a member of the group labeled ‘literate’” (CITE).

There is another question that we must ask ourselves: where is the line between literacy and illiteracy?  There is no clear distinction between the two, or even between literary deficiency and illiteracy, which makes it impossible to understand the role it plays in the workplace or otherwise.

We must consider “Those who are merely ‘functionally literature’ [who] may be able to complete a set of simple reading tasks or answer simple comprehension questions, but they may not have the literacy skills needed to operate in their daily lives as determined by a sector of society, whether this is the education system, the business world, or social groups.”  Where do these individuals fall on a universal illiteracy scale?  In the workplace, are they still considered to be deficient, even though they can read material and comprehend it at a basic level?  Or does the workplace view them as illiterate?  But the line between literacy and illiteracy is blurred even outside of the workplace; are their skills proficient enough for society to view them as literate, or do they fall short, despite the setting?

When attempting to evaluate the role of literacy in the modern workplace, “It is important to keep in mind that multiple literacies exist in the world and that people have the ability to be proficient in numerous literacies, using them in different facets of their lives (CITE). Until this sentiment is recognized and accepted as true, and universal definitions of literacy and illiteracy—as well as their boundaries and grey areas—are established, we will not be able to determine their importance in any capacity, but especially in a professional capacity.




Bond, Veronica. “What We Talk About When We Talk About Literacy: A Look into the Value, Measurement, and Power Hierarchy of Literacy.” DePaul University Mar. 2011. Web. 18 Sep. 2014.

Improving Workplace Literacy

When considering literacy in the workplace we must consider the demands and expectations of the workplace in question. For example, a general manufacturing workplace would not require the same level of literacy as, say, a corporate environment. It is evident that multimodal literacy is becoming necessary for all aspects of the workplace; single textual literacy is being phased out. For the purpose of this blog, I would like to explore the literacy requirements and potential changes need for general manufacturing. This includes non-college graduates, middle to lower class populations, and labor based employees.

For the past three years, I have worked at a Johnson & Johnson plant working with manufacturing specifications and employee training in the absorbable suture departments. The specifications (Specs) were technical in content, extremely lengthy, very reading intensive, and required a strong textual literacy. Other than the spec, digital based documents also were used. Employees were expected to have the literacy necessary to operate the digital documents and extract the information necessary to complete a manufacturing task effectively. After the manual task was complete, the employee was to enter data into a computer. The interface for the program was not exactly complicated to someone with a functional digital literacy; however, to the group of employee that did not have such skills, the task was almost impossible.


Though I completely agree with Glynda Hull’s assessment of the educational improvements of the youth, I find it a much more difficult endeavor to increase the nontraditional and necessary literacy of the current workforce. Hull explains the movement of education that focuses on the necessity of multimodal literacy; however, the current workforce, according to NAAL, is subpar when it comes to functional literacy. I find workplace literacy, in today’s world, to be a multimodal literacy.

The only way to improve the production and literacy of employees is to educate. Though that sounds simple, the actual process may prove to be difficult. The National Workforce Literacy Project, a project based in Australia, focuses on the improvement of workplace literacy through studies and application. The measures recommended and put into play by the NWLP consisted of condensed courses offered in-house and outside the workplace, workshops, and required literacy training as a condition of employment during the preliminary hiring process.


The NWLP’s research yielded preferred methods to increase literary in the workplace. The results, if implemented, would require the talents of a technical communicator. The top methods consisted of in-house literacy and numeric development, document redesign, and adjustment of expectations. Document redesign is especially interesting to technical communicators. The multimodal documents that are being used by employees may need adjusting to create an easier and more accessible flow of information. I am wary of adjusting the expectations due to the idea that illiteracy should be worked around as opposed to remedied.






Hull, Glenda, Ed. (1997). Changing Workers: Critical Perspectives on Language, Literacy, and Skills. Albany, NY: SUNY Press

“National Workforce Literacy Project.” A I Group. Australian Industry Group, 1 Jan. 2010. Web. 19 Sept. 2014. <>.

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2007). The Condition of Education 2007 (NCES 2007–064), Indicator 18

Blog # 4: Workers and Literacy

Literacy —”using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential” (USDE NCES, 2007, p. 246)—is important to US workers. A slightly extended definition of literacy is “the knowledge and skills needed by adults, in life and at work, to use information from various texts (e.g., news stories, editorials, manuals, brochures) in various formats (e.g., texts, maps, tables, charts, forms, time tables). [Adults need the] ability to retrieve, compare, integrate, and synthesize information from texts and to make inferences, among other skills” (IES).

In this image, “Digital Natives,” (Cristóbal Cobo Romaní, used here courtesy of a CC license), we see young children learning to use the tools of digital media production and consumption. In media and communication studies, the generations who have grown up with the internet and ubiquitous personal computing are sometimes describes as “digital natives” who intuitively understand how to use and communicate via digital and social media. What do you think of this description? Does everyone have equal access to such tools from an early age? Does simply having access to such tools result in enhanced digital literacy?

Many of us are unaware of the extent of literacy problems in the US and mistakenly assume the US has among the highest literacy rates in the world. While reported statistics vary depending on the survey and organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) survey indicates the U.S. ranks “16th out of 23 countries in literacy proficiency, 21st in numeracy proficiency, and 14th in problem solving in technology-rich environments” (Rogers, 2013). Who’s ahead of the US in literacy proficiency? A number of countries, including (in order) Japan, Finland, Netherlands, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Canada, Korea, UK, Denmark, and Germany (OECD, p. 29). Continue reading Blog # 4: Workers and Literacy

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