Correct Grammar Isn’t an Option — It’s a Necessity

Enough is enough. That is what grammarians and pundits are saying about the atrocious grammar and punctuation that is rampant in business and on social networks.
English for Dummies

All the hard work you’ve put into a presentation will be wasted if you start by writing, “John and me will…” Purists will immediately spot that the correct usage should be “John and I will…”

Or, you can hear the groans when someone says, “The client is meeting with John and I.” The object of the preposition is “John and me.”

Your Reputation is at Stake

Your use of bad grammar and misspellings could have a negative impact on your professional reputation within your company or with your clients.

The Wall Street Journal weighed in on the subject in a story that quoted employers who are clamping down on bad grammar in the workplace. Many said they are adding training programs to improve their employees’ grammar. Others are requiring potential employees to pass spelling and grammar tests before they will be hired.

The author Shea Bennett makes the case for correct grammar and spelling on social media in MediaBistro’s All Twitter newsletter on how to write a perfect tweet. “Accept nothing less than flawless grammar and perfect spelling…people will judge you on how you write, and how you spell, and this will have a direct impact on whether your links are clicked and your updates retweeted,” he writes.

Singular or Plural?

The practice is widespread now to use the singular and plural interchangeably. This bad habit began when it became politically incorrect to use the generic “he” when referring to an individual, whether a man or woman.

It is no longer acceptable to say: “Each employee will use his own smart phone.” These days that’s a “no, no.”

Instead, you will see memos that state: “Each employee will have their own smart phone.” It’s enough to make you cringe. Here are three real examples of poor grammar:

  • A bank spokesman in a TV ad proclaimed: “Eight – that’s the average number of credit cards a person has in their wallet.”
  • “Each employee will have their own unique personality….”
  • “An author’s success is determined by how efficiently they plan, write, promote, and profit from their book.”

He, She, They?

It’s possible to get around the problem of bad grammar by using the third person. “Employees will have their own smart phones.” This doesn’t always work if you’re referring to an individual, so consider a couple of other potential solutions.

One is to alternate using he and she throughout a presentation. Using the above example, “Each employee will have her own smart phone.  If someone doesn’t receive his new phone by Friday, the 20th, he should call Human Resources.”

Or, you could use the new word “s/he” that has come into use to avoid being political incorrect.

You could say, “In developing a presentation it is wise to meet with the company’s CEO to understand the key messages s/he wishes to present.” That’s a little awkward, though, and not everybody likes it.

Double Check Your Presentation

Once you’ve finished writing your presentation, use the spelling and grammar check application on your computer. It isn’t always 100% accurate. Mine kept trying to change “me” to “I” in the “John and me” example at the beginning of this post. Be sure to check again if you make changes in your presentation.

In the past, many agencies and companies employed full-time proofreaders. That’s rare these days. So ask at least one other person you trust to review your presentation for accuracy.

Even book publishers, who still use proofreaders, can get it wrong.

A Very Public Mistake

In one widely publicized miscue, the opening sentence in Bubbles, the autobiography of the late opera singer Beverly Sills, reads, “When I was only three, and still named Belle Miriam Silverman, I sang my first aria in pubic.”

It was reported at the time that she thought the spelling mistake was hilarious, told the publisher he didn’t have to correct the error and reprint the book, and sent autographed copies of the book to her friends.

Your company or clients might not be as forgiving when you misspell a word or make a major grammatical error.

3 comments to Correct Grammar Isn’t an Option — It’s a Necessity

  • Brian

    I wish people cared. They do not. In fact, if you point out grammar mistakes you are seen as uppity or unhip. Keep trying though. I see the front pages of websites of A-list firms with run-on sentences, obvious grammar errors, not knowing how to use adverb. I even see it in the WSJ.

  • John M

    I never read a book without noticing a few errors in grammar, punctuation, or spelling, sometimes something even substantive. Shakespeare himself was often guilty of inconsistency. Early in “Hamlet,” Hamlet states that he no longer exercises. But in the last act he states that he exercises continually. One noted critic suggested that when he wrote about Hamlet’s exercising in the last act “perhaps he was nodding off.”

  • Geraldine Comiskey

    I have been called a “grammar Nazi” and a snob because I pointed out people’s bad grammar when I was being trolled on Facebook (I’ve noticed trolls tend to have atrocious grammar). Some even claimed that their grammar wasn’t bad. I blame the dictionaries; they are increasingly letting bad grammar slip into the mainstream. Something I also find irritating is the use of multiple exclamation marks (usually by the same people who use emojis). It shouldn’t make me angry, but it does. Maybe the way forward is to forget grammar, forget education altogether, and just wallow in blissful ignorance. But I can’t do it.

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