Anyone who has been around me for any length of time knows that one of my biggest pet peeves is bad grammar. A huge amount of credit (or blame) for this goes to my mom, as she pounded the use of correct grammar into me all the years I was growing up. If I said, “Mom, can I go over to so-and-so’s house for awhile,” she would say, “I’m sure you can (i.e., physically able to do so), but no, you may not. It’s almost time for dinner.” In her eyes, I was never “done” — something was “done” when it was ready to come out of the oven. I was either “finished” or “through” with something. Needless to say, good grammar became part of my psyche, and to hear people use poor grammar in speech or see it in their writing — especially those who profess to be at least somewhat educated and professional — is like fingernails on a chalkboard.
I’ve written on this subject in the past and have actually had fellow bloggers respond with comments like, “I am who I am, and if people don’t like the way I write, then too bad. They just need to accept me for who I am.”
I couldn’t disagree more. Call me old school or even snobbish, but if writing is in any way a significant part of your business outreach or marketing strategy, then it provides a vital first impression. You’ve heard the saying that you have only one opportunity to make a first impression.
Thanks in large part to the increasing informality of e-mail and texting, poor spelling and grammar are unfortunately becoming more and more acceptable among the general public; but if you want to stand out above the crowd as a true professional — especially if the written word is a part of your profession — then there’s no getting around the fact that the use of proper and well-thought-out grammar is absolutely vital. In an article written for the Harvard Business Review, Kyle Wiens writes,
“Good grammar is credibility, especially on the internet. In blog posts, on Facebook statuses, in e-mails, and on company websites, your words are all you have. They are a projection of you in your physical absence.”
I was watching a replay earlier today of an online marketing webinar in which the presenter displayed a PowerPoint slide that asked viewers how much money they wanted to make per month, followed by the instruction “Right it down.” I wanted to reach into the screen, grab him by the throat and ask, “Do you mean as opposed to ‘wrong’ it down??? Geeez!”
Then, of course, there’s the classic misuse of the proper pronouns “I” and “me”, which drives me absolutely insane! There’s a commercial on TV right now from a dating service in which one of the actors gives the service credit for “bringing John and I together”. Now, I can absolutely guarantee there will be readers who will see that and say, “So, what’s wrong with that?” Okay . . . well, that’s a subject for another time, I guess.
The thing is, while nobody is perfect — including yours truly — there really is little excuse for bad writing, especially if it is part of your business. Every word processing program out there has a spelling and grammar check. Use it . . . with caution! While these automatic checking tools can go a long way toward helping you catch misspellings and improper word usage, they’re far from foolproof. I’m sure most of us have friends or colleagues who would be willing to serve as a second set of eyes to review our material before we publish it and put it out there to the public. Most online marketers spend money on a regular basis on training materials and marketing tools. You might consider including a professional editor or proofreader in your budget. Although I’ve never made that one of my primary offerings, feel free to contact me if I can be of help in this area. I’m sure we can work out something mutually beneficial. If nothing else, take a few minutes to simply proofread your own material before hitting that “Publish” button. I’ve even gone back afterward and found myself correcting errors I didn’t find the first time around.
In a nutshell, keep in mind that, as a blogger, your writing is the only way most people out there in cyberspace know you. Your words, as much as your message, are your image. Using bad grammar is like showing up for a job interview dressed poorly. Don’t you think it’s worth giving it some thought?
Here’s to great first impressions ~
If you’ve enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll take just a minute to share it with others. Thanks much!