Is Your Bad Grammar Making a Bad Impression?

grammarIs Your Bad Grammar Making a Bad Impression?

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.

What people do when I correct their poor grammarI’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!”

bad grammar makes me [sic]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.  proofreedYou 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 ~

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14 Responses to Is Your Bad Grammar Making a Bad Impression?

  1. Raena Lynn says:

    Hi Steve,

    As I posted in the Facebook comment, “I totally agree with you Steve. The art of proper grammar is slowly disintegrating. It’s sad, but your post might help those who don’t understand that bad grammar leaves a bad impression.” Maybe I should have used the word “poor.”

    I think people have become lazy and the “dumbing down” of our educational system certainly has an impact in addition to increased participation on the internet, mobile phones, and texting. I’m a fan of the internet and technology, but when it comes to poor grammar, I notice it everywhere.

    Before the internet and the digital age, people wrote letters, reports, and journals. I was a person of that generation so I had the benefit of lots of writing practice. People actually used a pen and paper! People having a lower tolerance for poor grammar because they don’t consider it an issue.

    Proper grammar is an indication of professionalism and creates a lasting impression. Thanks Steve.

    Raena Lynn

  2. Oh Steve,

    This is is one of my biggest challenges – gramma lol
    I am fortunate that my husband is a professional writer and he often proofreads my blog.
    Yes, I can use the excuse that a tawlk like I spell. But hey, it is my weak point and always need to check things twice.
    A good blog must have good spelling and grammar. It is our projection to the world that never goes away.
    I just cannot believe the school system accepting text talking grammar. It’s a darn shame.

    • Steve Vernon says:

      Hi Donna – You are indeed fortunate to have David available for proofing, and at least you have enough smarts to utilize his talents and knowledge. Good for you! I’m sure, as a professional writer, he’d be embarrassed to have his wife put out a badly written blog, HA! Yours are always well done, and I certainly enjoy reading them when I can. Now I know who to give credit, HA! And I totally agree with you about our “projection to the world” and about the school systems. I even had someone tell me one time that their child was corrected on a paper for correctly using “me” instead of “I” (something like “John took Mary and me to the store.” The teacher said it should have been “took Mary and I”!) I said the teacher should have been fired on the spot!

  3. Adrienne says:

    I’m probably not as bad as you on this topic Steve but I use to do the same thing to a friend of mine. We were both executive assistant’s so proper grammar and spelling is huge in that position. She never held down a job for long periods of time and I know exactly why. Her grammar was horrible and she would get mad at me every time I corrected her. Heck, I was trying to help her.

    I don’t get upset when some bloggers use improper grammar because it’s obvious to me that they are here more for pleasure then business. Now those here for business reasons just need to learn.

    What makes me sad really are our school systems that don’t help kids learn. That’s a whole other subject for sure but the more I see of our younger generation the more disappointed I am in our educational system. It’s pretty nonexistent these days.

    Happy New Year Steve!


    • Steve Vernon says:

      It’s amazing how the people who need the most help tend to be the most defensive, huh! < <>> And I totally agree, Adrienne . . . our education system certainly leaves a lot to be desired these days. It’s really, really sad.

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