Does Better English Equal More Pay?

Grammarly (the world’s leading automated grammar checker) recently conducted a study with over 400 freelancers to figure out how English skills affect income. Analyzing data from Elance, Grammarly found that there is a correlation between writing skills and hireability. In simpler terms, better writers tend to make more. Read the Huffington Post article and study the infographic below for further details:
grammarly infographic

Of course, causation cannot be established, but it makes sense that better communication results in being more valued at work. I’ve had some first-hand experience in seeing how English skills influence jobs. Here are three career-related areas where I’ve seen English make a big difference:

  • Formatting Resumes:
    I used to work in a university’s career office and critiqued resumes for graduating seniors. There’s an art to presenting your work experience. This involves the right amount of white space, along with lining up paragraphs in a neat order. For those who are using a functional resume, it involves highlighting transferable skills that would be attractive to any company.One of the other key elements is the actual writing. I always urged students to write in the active voice. It’s amazing how starting phrases with verbs instills excitement into accomplishments. Precise description also helps in creating vivid imagery (e.g. “supervised 50 employees” and “managed a $800,000 budget”).
  • Applying for Jobs:
    For a time, I also worked at a non-profit. We specialized in job training for low-income women. Some of the participants were looking for their first job, while others were transitioning positions. Before we allowed them into our program, we interviewed each applicant. One of our main requirements was that they had the appropriate language skills. Without adequate English in place, we wouldn’t be able to teach them the skill set to connect them with willing employers.
  • Busting the English Major Myth:
    I always hear about the friend of a friend who majored in English. This poor soul was unable to secure a job for decades. In reality, the people I know who majored in English went on to pretty good jobs. A majority of them are teachers or professors, but others have gone into other productive fields as well.

Do stronger English skills yield better pay? Share your opinion.


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  1. Veronica Roth says

    That might just be true in my world. You know Chloe’s been living in Europe with me since she was a wee girl, but also, C’s gone thru French immersion school and had all her lessons since preschool in French, (with the exception of English classes). But I noticed that her English language skills were much better than the average F. I. child because of her months in England, Switzerland, France and Prague every year, and also because Robert and my vocabulary is very large. Consequently, her vocabulary is larger, and so are her sentence structure skills. Her writing all the way thru university was much stronger than her fellow students and I didn’t really think anything of it until she was forced into group projects and I saw the appalling English skills of the other students, (AND in one case a Women’s Studies professor, who corrected her sentence to include the very proper English, “owing to the fact of…” Yikes!” . And then, if you can believe this, 10 or 11 yr old C used to complain for a period, after coming back from E, that she felt she had to “dumb” herself down to fit in with her school crowd again. Sad but true. Happily she’s outgrown that crowd. :D

    • Jennifer J. Chow says

      Thanks for sharing your story, Veronica. I can’t believe C had to pretend to know less during her childhood. When I was growing up, my parents pushed learning English to a greater degree than Chinese, so I could excel at school.

  2. This post can only interest me, Jennifer. I am in agreeement with you: Acquiring the best skills to master a language is key to success. It gets more complicated for immigrants who have to learn it from scratch at an adult age. I’m one of them, although I had some foundation to build on. Yet I quickly understood that in order to function and be respected I had to do my best to improve my writing skills. The accent remains and can be an obstacle in some cases. As for the people who major in English, we say the same in France. I majored in French literature and found a job even before I graduated. Like your parents my husband and I pushed our kids to learn English to acquire perfect skills. I’m happy to say it has worked beyond expectations. One of our daughters is majoring in English, and we’re confident she’ll get a job after graduation. See you, Jennnifer.

    • Jennifer J. Chow says

      So interesting to hear your thoughts, Evelyne. I agree with you. It is such a difficult task for new immigrants. Best of luck to your daughter!

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