Impetus, advocate, derelict, brevity – might as well be foreign words to graduates

An opinion editorial titled “Verbally Challenged – Potholes in college students’ minds” in Sunday’s Houston Chronicle highlights some frightening realities about the ability of today’s university students to recognize common words and construct simple sentences. The article’s author, a journalism teacher at Elon University in North Carolina, talks about how when he asked students in one of his classes who their favorite authors were, the only name offered was the author of The DaVinci Code. The students couldn’t name ANY other authors.

Some of his students had no idea what the words “impetus,” “advocate,” “derelict,” “brevity,” or any number of similar words that are not unfamiliar to the English vernacular. The professor attributes this dearth of basic knowledge to a decline in pleasure reading by kids and young adults.

It is a sad state of affairs indeed – and probably one reason why there is plenty of freelance writing work available for those who have more than a fundamental command of the language.