Does Good Grammar Matter on the Job?


Accord­ing to a June 19, 2012, arti­cle in The Wall Street Jour­nal, “This Embar­rasses You and I*: Gram­mar Gaffes Invade the Office in an Age of Infor­mal Email, Tex­ting and Twit­ter. (The arti­cle includes an inter­ac­tive Gram­mar Quiz; check it out!)  “Man­agers are fight­ing an epi­demic of gram­mar gaffes in the work­place. Many of them attribute slip­ping skills to the infor­mal­ity of email, tex­ting and Twit­ter where slang and short­cuts are com­mon. Such loose­ness with lan­guage can cre­ate bad impres­sions with clients, ruin mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als and cause com­mu­ni­ca­tions errors, many man­agers say.”

It will be no sur­prise to any­one that,. as a pro­fes­sional edi­tor, I whole­heart­edly agree! What’s even worse, how­ever, is that some man­agers don’t even seem to care!


I fully believe that inac­cu­rate use of gram­mar and sloppy use of style make a writer (and, by exten­sion the orga­ni­za­tion he or she rep­re­sents) appear unpro­fes­sional, inar­tic­u­late, and lack­ing in cred­i­bil­ity. (Not to be con­fused with “incred­i­ble” — though some­times that adjec­tive comes to my lips, drip­ping with sar­casm, when I read some of the gram­mar gaffes of which this arti­cle speaks.)

At [some com­pa­nies, such as] Res­cue­Time, [how­ever], gram­mar rules have never come up. At the Seattle-based maker of personal-productivity soft­ware, most employ­ees are in their 30s. Sin­cer­ity and clar­ity expressed in ‘140 char­ac­ters and sound bytes’ are seen as hall­marks of good com­mu­ni­ca­tion — not ‘the king’s gram­mar,’ says Jason Grimes, 38, vice pres­i­dent of prod­uct mar­ket­ing. ‘Those who can be sin­cere, and still text and Twit­ter and com­mu­ni­cate on Face­book — those are the ones who are going to suc­ceed.’” I get that… to a point. The trou­ble is that, often, clar­ity can not be achieved with­out accu­rate gram­mar. The writer might think his or her mes­sage is per­fectly clear because he or she already knows the mes­sage! But it can actu­ally mean some­thing totally dif­fer­ent, sim­ply due to a mis­placed punc­tu­a­tion mark or a mis­spelled word.

This para­graph, clos­ing out the WSJ arti­cle, is well said, in my opin­ion (or should I say, “IMO”?): “‘Twenty-five years ago it was impos­si­ble to put your hands on some­thing that hadn’t been pro­fes­sion­ally copy-edited,’ [Bryan A.] Gar­ner, [author of Garner’s Mod­ern Amer­i­can Usage,]  says. ‘Today, it is actu­ally hard to put your hands on some­thing that has been pro­fes­sion­ally copy-edited.’”

How sad is that. (And no, the period instead of a ques­tion mark is not a mis­take. I fully intend to make a state­ment — no room for debate… IMHO.)



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