As professional communicators, we are the gatekeepers of clarity. We block the paths of confusion and misunderstanding in order to effectively represent the voice of our organizations. We’re not required to be grammarians or linguists, but in this profession it is vital to be credible and refined in the language we use.
Monday, March 4 was National Grammar Day, and writers expressed their appreciation (or disdain) for the rules of the written word. Brad Hoover, CEO of the online proofreading website Grammarly, stressed the importance of proper grammar usage in business, especially in a time of informal digital communications. Whether you’re a defender of the correct use of the subjunctive mood or are against the singular ‘they’, practicing good grammar seems to be corollary to success. According to a sample study done by Grammarly, professionals who had fewer grammar mistakes in their LinkedIn profiles attained director-level positions within the first decade of their careers. Those who didn’t move up in their organization within the first 10 years “made 2.5 times as many grammar mistakes as their director-level colleagues,” Hoover says.
Poor grammar might not only hold you back from moving up within an organization; it may also prevent you from getting hired at all. You may have read the popular HBR blog post by iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens about why he doesn’t hire candidates with poor grammar. In it, he explains that good grammar simply shows a person’s credibility, attention to detail, and ability to think critically. “If it takes someone more than 20 years to notice how to properly use ‘it’s,’ then that’s not a learning curve I’m comfortable with,” Wiens says. Wiens’ post has received more than 3,800 comments since it was published in July, both positive and negative. But whether you agree with his hiring practices or not, it must be recognized that communicators have an even greater responsibility to employ proper grammar.
What do you think? Are grammatical mistakes forgivable or are they indicative of carelessness in one’s business operations?