Recently “Weird Al” Yankovich released a new album of his parodies of famous songs. One of them is particularly close to my heart as someone whose job is all about communicating. It’s called “Word Crimes” and while it parodies [hilariously, I might add] the song “Blurred Lines” it’s all about – as the title suggests – bad grammar. The song, as are all Weird Al creations, is absolutely hilarious! But it also is quite clever, and makes a point – a very important point – which, as someone who communicates for a living is in fact what I like to call a “big doo-da deal”.
Yes, if you haven’t already figured it out, this will be a rant [but just a little one!] on the increasingly common lack of correct grammar in both verbal and written communications in recent years. It makes my teeth hurt when people use bad grammar, and the advent of Twitter and texting has really made it worse. I have heard all the excuses for why good grammar isn’t a big deal – here are just the most egregious:
- “With texting, Twitter and Instagram, nobody actually EXPECTS perfect grammar anymore” Yes, they DO! Even if you slack off in your own private texts, I promise you that people out in the world – even those who are also texting and Tweeting – WILL think less of you if your grammar is terrible out around the interwebs. Because another feature of the social media world is that nothing is ever really private. You never know who will forward or share what these days. So err on the safe side and use correct grammar in all your communication – taking that approach won’t ever hurt. “She, always uses proper grammar, I hate that”, said no one ever.
- “Eh. Mostly my grammar’s okay. If I slip up occasionally, nobody will notice.” Wrong! We notice. Most people know when they hear or read something that’s incorrect, grammar-wise. They may not even be able to put their [NOT they're or there, please note] finger on exactly why it’s [NOT its] wrong, but they know it is. And those little grammar mistakes echo inside our heads when we hear them. They distract us from the message you are actually trying to deliver, while we try to figure out why what you just said isn’t right.It’s hard enough to get your message across successfully without adding unnecessary distractions, isn’t it?
But, if you still aren’t convinced it matters whether you know the difference between “It’s and Its” or “Their, There and They’re”, here are three BIG reasons you really WANT to care about your grammar skills:
- You may NOT get the job you want – No less than the Harvard Business Review has run articles – here’s one – confirming that companies want people – even people who won’t “officially” be writing in the job they’re applying for – to have basic grammar skills, and won’t hire people who don’t.
- You may make less money – do I have your attention now?! Another article I came across, here, we learn that a study of LinkedIn profiles showed that those with fewer errors in their profiles correlated with more promotions. And since promotions mean more money . . . well, enough said.
- People think you are less intelligent when your grammar is bad – you may not THINK you care what people think of you, but really, there are some areas where we’d like people to think well of us, now aren’t there? That attractive person of the opposite sex you just met at a business association meeting, for instance. Or meeting your partner’s parents for the first time, say. Or any group of people where intelligent conversations are happening. Wouldn’t you rather make it easy for people to think well of you, as opposed to making them think you are ignorant or uneducated? And you’d probably be surprised to discover just how MANY people categorize you as not-very-bright [I'm trying to be kind, here] when your grammar sucks. I came across this Yahoo Questions thread while I was researching this post and you’ll see that pretty much everyone who commented on this random post agreed that you are judged less intelligent when your grammar is consistently bad. Why would anyone intentionally want to create that impression?
Now, I appreciate that English is a bit of a nut-job where languages are concerned. Because it’s basically a mish-mash of stolen bits of a number of other languages, the rules are all over the map. So, yes, it does take a little work to keep things straight. But here’s where our new online world is a benefit – there’s an app for everything – including grammar!!! Here are a few you might want to download that will help you with using proper grammar [there are many more to choose from - these are just some I personally like]:
So please, I’m begging [and I almost NEVER beg!] use proper English in your communications. If you don’t want to do it for me, or your co-workers, or your friends, do it because you want to be promoted and make more money. I don’t really care what your reason is, I just have my fingers crossed that you will take this heart-felt and kindly meant advice . After all, you don’t want to end up on the receiving end of a Weird Al parody – do you?! :-)