I did some catching up on my blog reading and tripped across a comment that suggested that most jobs don't require any ability to write well (it was buried somewhere in the NYTimes freakonomics blog archives, if you're curious). It went unchallenged and the conversation continued, but it made me wonder - for your average job that requires a college degree, how much writing is expected?
Most of my job experience has been either in the environmental consulting business or in academia, and I've held several somewhat overlapping roles in both. In all cases, I needed to be able to write to a certain standard, whether that was specifications that were clear and didn't have contradictory information, reports that didn't make the company look incompetent, or powerpoint slides that were easily understandable. Oh yeah, and that 100-page thesis.
If my writing had been terrible or merely bad enough to be annoying to fix, I probably would have gotten jobs similar to what I ended up with (although not my first job in consulting - that came with a writing test because they'd been burned by functionally illiterate scientists before), and I probably would have gotten into grad school somewhere. But I would have been one the first people let go (if you can write fast and well, you become indispensable to lots of people) when times got rough, and I wouldn't have moved into a management position at a relatively young age.
Maybe my experience is atypical. So how much writing do you need to do for your job? Is writing "well" (however it's defined) important?